Queensland’s surprise decision to shut its border to Sydney last week caused Qantas to axe almost one-third of its schedule.
Chief executive Alan Joyce also said the airline is operating at 20 per cent pre-COVID-19 capacity, and not the 45 per cent it hoped to run before borders across Australia were hardened.
Talking to veteran interviewer Kerry O’Brien at Griffith University, Joyce called for a national framework to guide the opening and closing of state borders.
“What we’d like to see is real certainty over what’s going to happen with borders and different approaches being taken by different states,” Joyce said. “The principle we all agree on is that health has to be the top priority but the medical experts have said it’s not elimination we’re after, it’s suppression.”
He argued that the current situation had caused “a huge amount of uncertainty” that made it hard to fix on “one potential outcome”. He called the early retirement of the 747 and job losses “heartbreaking”.
However, he was confident the business had a strong medium to long-term future and said that people were “getting more confident about vaccines and treatments”.
Asked about the future of Virgin Australia, Joyce said he thought the revived airline would “head back down-market to where Virgin Blue was”.
“That will give Qantas more opportunities,” said Joyce. “We’re already finding in places like Hamilton Island and Maroochydore, the dynamic has changed, and I think it will change even more when Virgin comes out of administration.”
He also talked up the long-term future of the aviation industry, but added it regularly goes through “boom and bust”.
“There’s still huge growth forecast in aviation. Worldwide there’s a need for 900,000 new pilots in the next 30 years.
“You do what you can do within your control if you’re a good company like Qantas. I haven’t taken a salary in four months now.”