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Qantas dilemma as international borders to shut until 2022

written by Adam Thorn | May 9, 2021
A supplied image of Qantas Boeing 787-9 VH-ZNJ in special centenary livery. (Qantas)
A long-haul Qantas Boeing 787-9, VH-ZNJ, in special centenary livery. (Qantas)

Australia has moved its official estimate as to when its international borders will reopen from later this year to 2022.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed the news on Sunday, which will likely force Qantas to push back its plan to restart long-haul flights on 31 October.

The flag carrier’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, said last month the airline would move its plans if the previous date, announced in last year’s budget, slipped.

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Frydenberg was speaking ahead of his budget address on Tuesday, which will unveil a new 2022 open date used to guide Treasury planning for the next 12 months.

“We have an assumption based on the borders opening. It’s in 2022,” he said on Sunday. “We’ve got to follow the health advice, and the Prime Minister has repeatedly made that point, we don’t move ahead of the health advice.

“We’ve got to ensure that our community stays safe and when we suppress the virus as we’ve successfully done, our economy recovers, and recover strongly.”

His comments were backed up by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who indicated Australia’s opening would be pushed back in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

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“We have to be careful not to exchange that way of life for what everyone else has,” he said.

Later, on Facebook, he warned borders would only open “when it’s safe to do so”.

“We still have a long way to go, and there are still many uncertainties ahead,” he said. “Australians are living like in few countries around the world today.”

In April, Joyce revealed the government hadn’t given him an exact date for when international borders are likely to open, despite the airline selling tickets from 31 October.

“If it happens earlier, we can adapt or if it happens later, and it could happen later, we just adapt and use it,” Joyce said.

The news comes amid increasing worries over delays to Australia’s inoculation program, caused by a shift in policy to prioritise administering the Pfizer vaccine to under 50s rather than the Oxford vaccine that the country has in far greater supply. The British-created jab has been linked to blood clots in a very small number of recipients.

A vaccine delay is significant to Qantas specifically because Joyce has repeatedly insisted his airline’s policy is that long-haul international travellers must be vaccinated.

Australia is also battling apathy problems with the vaccine program, with NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro suggesting people were unwilling to risk getting a jab because life has resumed without restrictions in many areas.

He urged residents to “do your bit” and said Australia needs to jab 70 per cent of the population for the virus to be kept under control.

“The reality is, and I have heard it myself, [people say] there is no virus so why bother or why take the chance?” Deputy Premier Barilaro said.

It follows NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard stating there was a “70 to 80 per cent” drop in health workers turning up for appointments since links were made between the jab and blood clots.

Qantas’ Joyce has repeatedly said he won’t let unvaccinated customers on his international flights because he has a “duty of care to our people and passengers”.

16 Comments

  • S. Mintz

    says:

    Australia will be the country the world forgets about. How sad.

    • P

      says:

      You are sad Mintzy.

    • IAN

      says:

      & another pollie will say something different tomorrow. We have to open up. The rest of the world is.

    • PD

      says:

      I disagree. Australia will be the country everyone talks about because of how well it managed the control of the spread of the virus and kept a large percentage of it’s population safe and well.

    • PM

      says:

      What a ridiculous comment to make

  • I’m sure AJ & QANTAS will refund ” very quickly and without fuss” all the fares paid for when AJ was spruiking an October 2021 restart for international travel with QANTAS and having a Sale to match this plan?

  • Peter Gardiner

    says:

    The Federal government needs to do it’s job & Fix quarantine & roll out the vaccine.

  • Philip Gauci

    says:

    And how do we know 2022 will be safe to travel? Stop kidding yourselves and the Australian public with this guessing game of dates. How is Europe opening up this summer? If Australia had proper managed the vaccine program and sorted out the mess in quarantine facilities..we could be in a position to open up this year as was promised to us by the PM.

  • Steve A

    says:

    I said before when Alan Joyce pushed to start selling international tickets, that it was irresponsible to do so, and that the motivation for him to do so was purely to grab money from people who actually believed him, to keep paying Qantas’s current bills.
    He could do the right thing and refund those people duped into believing that an October opening was going to happen, but he won’t and he will just keep their money, and give them a future credit IOU.
    Go on Mr Joyce. Prove me wrong. Do the right and ethical thing. Show us the Sirit of Australia actually does still live at Mascot and is not dead and buried.

  • Jacky

    says:

    What about people like myself who for allergy and autoimmune issues can’t have the vaccine yet keep ourselves healthy? Does this mean I can’t travel with my husband, children and grandchildren.

  • Thurza Eichler

    says:

    It is time to let those who want to travel to leave. I am 69 years old l have been vaccinated and l want to go back to Europe. I havent seen people for 2years. If you dont want to go dont. If you dont want to get vaccinated dont but dont stop those of us who have .. let’s us travel whist we can…I see sportspeople, the rich, entertainers come and go… why not us….

  • KAE

    says:

    The Australian government is now holding us prisoner. I haven’t seen my partner in a year. It’s going to be pushing 2 years by the time the government decides to allow international travel.

    I’m all for having the vaccine and I’m in the age group that is only being allowed AstraZeneca. What’s the point in taking the risk if the government won’t allow us to travel? I can also understand why health professionals aren’t bothering to turn up for vaccinations. There is almost zero risk of catching covid in Australia right now.

    Australia handled the pandemic well but they have really ****ed up the vaccine roll-out.

  • Zukinni

    says:

    Australians live in prison now.

  • Kevine

    says:

    When all of Australian population has been offered the vaccine then we can open our borders to vaccinated people only. Those who don’t or won’t have the jab well you can just take your chance. Just a fact check here In the autumn/ winter 2019 , over 700 people died from influenza.. Yes the common old flu .So a zero infection option for covid 19 is pie in the sky mentality. Unless we make Australia the worlds biggest prison. We can beat this virus but only one way , do your bit get the jab. Do your bit for everyone.

  • Rene Biber

    says:

    BORDER OPENING 2022 ??? you kidding Canberra ???
    Joyce is sensible demanding Pax vaccinated before Boarding
    remember scomo’s big mouth “we shall have all vaccinated by October 2021”
    reason why Canberra is scarred opening borders is simply because aussieland will be totally incapable of having only a minute fraction of the population vaccinated in 2021, and most likely not even by end 2022
    local vaccine production – where is it – all hot air ?
    imports “late this year ??? hmhm – aussieland is not the only vaccine customer – but Canberra doesn’t get it
    open borders 2022 or more likely much later like 2024 – yes remember my prediction – I can’t save my message – but I have photographed it !

  • JH630

    says:

    Watching the rest of the world recover and become vaccinated quickly while we sit and pity ourselves. What a brilliant reward for being such a well-behaved and responsible country during a pandemic.

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