Brits in Australia will be able to be reunited with their families in time for Christmas after Qantas confirmed the first flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London will depart on 18 December.
On that day, flights will also recommence to Los Angeles, Vancouver and Singapore, with Tokyo and Fiji coming online the next day and Honolulu the day after that.
Currently, Australian citizens and permanent residents can only leave the country with an exemption, with Qantas having halted all commercial international flights other than government-supplemented repatriations. Those returning must hotel quarantine for two weeks, but there is hope the federal government will have relaxed that rule later this year, in favour of home quarantine or proof of vaccination status.
The airline previously confirmed plans to restart international flying in August, but only today has confirmed the exact dates that are bookable on its website.
Currently, flights from Sydney to London via Perth on 18 December are selling from just $2,794.
Qantas has previously said its international re-opening is likely to be “gradual”, with a focus on low-risk countries first, including those with high vaccination uptake including the UK, US, and parts of Asia.
The airline is also reinstating services between Australia and New Zealand, projecting a re-start of the currently paused trans-Tasman travel bubble, also in December.
Qantas has pushed back its planned return to higher-risk destinations, such as Bali, Bangkok, Manila and Johannesburg, until April 2022.
In August, the business’ CEO, Alan Joyce, said that while the prospect of flying overseas might feel a long way off, the current pace of the vaccine rollout means we will soon get our freedoms back.
“It’s obviously up to the government exactly how and when our international borders re-open, but with Australia on track to meet the 80 per cent trigger agreed by national cabinet by the end of the year, we need to plan ahead for what is a complex restart process,” said Joyce.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen, including training our people and carefully bringing aircraft back into service. We’re also working to integrate the IATA travel pass into our systems to help our customers prove their vaccine status and cross borders.
“We can adjust our plans if the circumstances change, which we’ve already had to do several times during this pandemic. Some people might say we’re being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we’re ready.”
Earlier in the year, Qantas pushed back its intended start date for international routes from October to December, despite the federal government’s modeling suggesting borders would remain shut until mid-2022.
It came as the airline posted a statutory loss before tax of $1.83 billion, largely driven by sudden and ongoing border closures in the second half of the financial year.