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McCormack slaps down Qantas’ international flight plans

written by Adam Thorn | January 5, 2021

Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND Emily Kame Kngwarreye touches down in Alice Springs. (Qantas/James Morgan)
Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZND Emily Kame Kngwarreye touches down in Alice Springs. (Qantas/James Morgan)

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has issued what appears to be a stinging rebuke of Qantas’ decision to sell international tickets for travel from 1 July.

In a terse statement sent to the media on Tuesday afternoon, McCormack said, “International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians. Decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian government.”

It comes after Qantas began selling tickets across all of its global network today and said the decision reflected “our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021”.

“The health and safety of Australians remains the Morrison-McCormack government’s top priority,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said.

“International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians.

“Decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian government.

“The Australian government is working on travel arrangements with countries, such as New Zealand, that have low community infections.


“Operations and ticket sales on particular routes are commercial decisions for airlines.”

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.

Qantas’ decision to sell tickets was surprising given October 2020’s federal budget revealed the government isn’t planning for international travel to return until the latter part of 2021.

However, it also follows increasing optimism that the COVID crisis could end in the next few months, with the UK, US and Israel in particular rapidly increasing their vaccination programs.

Tickets for flights departing on 1 July and returning at the end of the month range from $3,400 return from Sydney to London; and $2,000 from Sydney to New York (La Guardia).

Qantas’ move also comes shortly after it said it would launch a new business with Japan Airlines in July.

The deal will 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 2020 suggesting Japan could be one of the first locations the country will open to.

The two airlines said they had already submitted an application for authorisation to regulators in Australia and New Zealand, with a decision due within six months.

Any attempt by Qantas to completely restart its network is likely to be hampered by its decision to ground many of its aircraft in long-term storage.

Currently, all 12 of its A380s are in hibernation, with six of those having been upgraded beforehand.

Chief executive Alan Joyce said that the A380s “have to remain on the ground for at least three years until we see those international volumes brought back”.

“The aircraft are being put into the Mojave Desert, where the environment protects the aircraft (because) we have the intention at the right time to restart them, but that is a considerable amount of time away,” said Joyce.

Comments (19)

  • Dreamer


    Someone tell the Deputy PM and media that every other airline has been selling the same tickets – the Middle East carriers, Singapore, the US carriers, etc have all been selling for months. Many are selling for April and borders won’t be open by then.

  • Lloyd Armstrong


    McCormack needs to actually do his bloody job for once. If the Federal Government doesn’t expect or allow international travel to restart until the end of 2021, what is the Federal Government going to do about supporting the industry during that time? Apart from giving his National Party mates the lions share of an assistance package that doesn’t in any way shape or form trickle down the supply chain… Aviation can’t survive another 10 months of downturn, the industry already had it’s challenges pre-covid, now we’d be lucky to have one by the end of this year.

  • Bryan


    McCormack’s angry because it’s not his favourite airline, Rex, to whom he gave millions’ $ after they said they wouldn’t carry Covid tests on their planes, back in March 2020, making the International plans!
    And yes, I know they’re only Domestic, but with their wanting to infiltrate the ‘golden triangle’, you don’t know what their future routes might be, especially seeing they’re owned by a Singaporean Company!

    • Max


      To be fair, is Qantas the “favourite” airline of anyone these days?

      • Bryan


        Yes, Max, QANTAS is the favoured airline of its’ many millions’ of FF’s, as well as the 1000’s of Virgin FF’s who took advantage of QF’s offer to them late Nov 2020.

        The Company is now in its’ 101st year, & that goes to show that it’s a survivor, & a good one at that!


  • Rocket


    Of course he did, he and his party practically have shares in REX who they gave over $100M to for ‘survival’ which REX then went and spent on 737-800s ex Virgin. It wasn’t a support payment, it was a grant to give them a leg up.
    So, if this is so terrible, why is the same government not bagging Singapore Airlines for resuming flights????

  • Steve A


    Not a surprise. But call me a sceptic and a cynic, but I think that Alan Joyce knows full well that international flying won’t be back by then.
    Like millions of other people here in Australia, airlines have heaps of my money in their banks. And try and get it back and it’s a Herculean task. If you want to preserve its full value for the future, then you have to let them keep it, otherwise you only get a fraction of what you have paid back.
    So, just as he did back in 2014, when he nearly sent Qantas down the gurgler, Alan Joyce knows that he can probably get Qantas through by using customers’ advance booking payments to pay for current costs.
    No other industry in Australia permits a business to use ” TRUST ” money belonging to customers to pay for its current operating costs. This is the level of honesty that Qantas management have stooped to.
    New top management is required as well as a new Board.
    They have failed to pull AJ into line at any time in the past when he has done something dodgy.
    Don’t they realize that there is actually more to being a director than simply going to Board meetings and drinking the booze and eating the canapes? Their job is to take a supervisory position and to keep management in check and to look after shareholder’s interests?
    As they don’t do this, then they need to be gone.

  • Libran


    Of course greedy little man not happy enough to sack 6500 workers but took over 12 months to refund fees for canceled flight’s. Taking billions from jobkeeper to make up his bonus losses

  • Peter


    Classic. Only slapping them down because old Sharpy at Rex is telling him to. The Deputy PM crowing on outside his electorate office about QF competing on regional routes might be a little too obvious. Cue the Benny Hill theme.

  • Andrea Shearer


    Lloyd you are on the money. Now is the time for the ACCC to pay attention to the “back slapping” taking place for select airline operators.

  • Steve A


    The Federal government needs to mandate that Qantas, and others, put travellers future airfare funds into a separate trust account so that they can be refunded once these flights don’t go ahead. Not an IOU for a future flight.
    At the moment Qantas and other international airlines, are funding themselves with customers money from dubious flights that almost certainly won’t take off.
    Qantas, should it go broke, will owe billions to customers for future flights.
    This is not acceptable to allow Qantas to stay afloat, when it is teetering on collapse once again (second time under AJ’s leadership)
    I am sure that it would collapse if it can’t sell mythical flights in the future.
    This is just a ploy by Qantas management to fund the airline free of charge with customers’ money.
    After all, nearly everything that isn’t nailed down at Qantas has already been hocked.
    Shows you how right I was to vehemently criticise QF management when they spent more than $3 billion of shareholders money on this share buy back folly.
    Look at Boeing to see how disastrous this is.
    They spent $US60 billion on share buy backs and now it struggling to survive and is asking for $60 billion from the US Federal government of US taxpayer’s money.
    Is it fair to keep pumping money into such a badly run airline such as Qantas?
    It needs a new beginning. It has meandered aimlessly for such a long time, and gotten nowhere.
    Time to look at re-nationalising it, getting it sorted properly again, and then start gradually selling down shares again.
    QF shareholders have been used and abused, Qantas staff have been used and abused, and customers have had to watch as the QF offering slides down and down.
    And the country’s tourism industry and jobs growth have been severely hit too.
    The privatization of Qantas has proved disastrous.
    Time to start again.

  • Craig Riseley


    Qantas & other airlines are being proactive about getting going again. It’s called forward planning. No business can survive without it unlike Dumm arsed, knee jerking politicians!

  • Nathan


    There are a few countries we could be flying to with no or limited quarantine, Taiwan, Fiji, Korea, Japan, Singapore.

  • Paquita


    The Federal Government needs to support the Qantas international pilots to maintain skills and training if they continue to prevent them flying…..Jobkeeper is not enough!

  • Paquita


    The Federal Government needs to support the Qantas international pilots to maintain skills and training if they continue to prevent them flying…..Jobkeeper is not enough!

  • Colin N Jones


    Maybe he is stalling while Rex gears itself up to running international services between Wagga and Strasbourg. Can’t let the country party mates miss an opportunity.

  • PaulE


    I have made a number of domestic bookings with Qantas over the last few weeks. Every one of them has been modified or cancelled, one of them within two hours of the initial booking. COVID has been given as the excuse each time. I can’t imagine why anybody would risk spending thousands of dollars on a flight that in all likely hood won’t happen. I decided yesterday I’m suffering from ‘cancelation fatigue’ and have just given up trying.

  • Jeff Hayes


    This is just a way of Qantas trying to get some money in the bank. People are going to paid for tickets that they won’t be able to use and wait till they ask for a refund. Won’t happen. Hope your happy with credit notes. Also how come the spirit if Australia make 2000 staff redundent to use labour hire to replace them by a company called Swissport. Look up who ownes Swissport Its HNA. A Chinese owned company. More Australian money going to china.

  • Juri Strante


    People have taken our freedom to travel as a right when it is really a privilege.
    To cross borders we once required a visa, and a valid immunisation card, as well as a passport. In the past fifty years since the introduction of mass transport (B-747) we’ve allowed the abandonment of entry visas to most countries, also our health card immunisation details, and passports that are no longer stamped at exit and entry points, all due to it seems to economic priorities to ensure profit comes before safety, health safety. Expeditious short cuts for profits has come to bite us. Big companies, such as Qantas, now consider they can tell a Government how to run a country and by default their business. To be so outlandish as to advise citizen they will be flying again by June’s end, during a pandemic that appears to be worsening, is not only giving false assurance to the public that is not entirely convinced how dangerous Covid-19 is, especially that the virus seems to have mutated into a strain deadlier than the original virus. To ensure we don’t go down the deadly path of U.S.A., Brazil, and Europe. The only course to take is complete lockdown at the expensive of aviation before there are no passengers at all. Let’s face the truth, if it wasn’t for aircraft we most probably would not be in this situation when 100 years ago sailing ships took more than 14 days of isolation to travel to here, and had to hoist up the yellow and black “Q” quarantine flag, to advise the Harbour Master of their arrival, where every passenger was inspected prior disembarkation. It airlines are concerned about our safety, and our health safety, they would liaise with Government Health authorities for the re-introduction of immunisation cards, and passports stamped not only at departure and arrival points, but also at transit points. Today we rely on a passenger’s trustworthiness in answering quarantine questions, such as “have you been in Africa in the past fortnight?” when who knows where the passenger was prior to the last transit stop on their way to Australia. Seems money saved by turning a blind eye to reality equals profit, and down the track today we pay for it many times over.

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