Qantas has made its first significant move to restart international flying after revealing it has plans to launch a new business with Japan Airlines in July.
The deal would involve an expanded codeshare relationship, additional flights, new routes and collaboration on pricing.
It comes after Australian Aviation reported comments by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in October suggesting Japan could be one of the first locations the country will open to.
The two airlines said on Wednesday they had already submitted an application for authorisation to regulators in Australia and New Zealand, with a decision due within six months.
If given the green light, the new business would launch in July – the same month Qantas estimates international flying beyond New Zealand would restart.
Qantas and Japan Airlines hope the move will allow:
- An expanded codeshare relationship and optimised schedules on flights between Australia and New Zealand and Japan;
- Enhanced frequent flyer benefits for Qantas and JAL customers, including better earning of Qantas points or JAL miles on routes;
- Qantas customers to have access to 14 new codeshare destinations in Japan; and JAL customers to have access to 15 new codeshare destinations in Australia and New Zealand;
- Co-ordination of pricing, schedules, sales and tourism marketing.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said, “Around half a million people visited Australia from Japan in 2019. We want to see that tourism resume and grow even further by making it easier for Japanese travellers to visit.
“It will be a win for our customers, a win for trade and a win for the one million people who work in tourism across Australia.”
Japan Airlines president Yuji Akasaka said he hoped the new business would allow for faster recovery between both countries because of the deal’s ability to expand connectivity within each carrier’s respective domestic network.
Currently, only Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter the country, with international students, temporary visa holders and tourists banned altogether. Those who do enter are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for which they have to pay up to $3,000.
However, it’s hoped that Australia could begin to open to New Zealand early next year followed by countries deemed to have minimised COVID cases, such as Japan. That opening will likely be dependent on the availability of a vaccine.
PM Morrison has hinted that opening could be used in tandem with swapping hotel for home quarantine.
“[As] we do look to have our borders open up at some point to safe locations, whether it be New Zealand or parts of the Pacific, or places like South Korea or Japan, or countries that have had a much higher rate of success, then there are opportunities to look at those alternative methods,” said PM Morrison previously.
“As time goes on, we will need a more flexible approach that gives us more options for managing this.
“When it comes in, that will obviously be determined principally by the health advice … but I’m hopeful it’s something we can move to.”
The news comes despite Sydney currently dealing with a COVID outbreak in the city’s Northern Beaches, which has forced all other states and territories to close their borders.
On Monday alone, Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin cancelled 48 flights from Sydney Airport. Qantas said it saw a surge of bookings on Sunday as passengers scrambled to get home and beat restrictions, followed by a similar increase in customers moving their flights from the next week.