Qantas has announced a slew of changes to its flying schedule in light of the current state of domestic borders, delaying all services from Western Australia to the eastern states until February, and putting the flagship London-Perth service on hold.
Qantas has confirmed that it will “temporarily” reroute its flagship London-Perth service until “at least” April 2022, and is currently in discussions with the Northern Territory government and Darwin Airport to facilitate a new direct service via Darwin.
The airline previously suggested that it might opt to re-route its direct flights between Australia and London via Darwin, as opposed to Perth, in light of Western Australia’s “conservative border policies”.
“The discussions for what would be a daily Melbourne-Darwin-London service focus on the logistics of domestic and international transit under the current NT government Plan for COVID-Management at Stage 3 of the National Plan,” Qantas said in a statement.
“If this service can’t operate through Darwin, it will instead fly Melbourne-Singapore-London until at least April 2022. A decision on the exact routing is likely to be made within the next two weeks.”
Qantas has also pushed back its planned return to regular passenger services between Western Australia and the eastern states of NSW and Victoria by two months to 1 February 2022, “based on border assumptions”.
The airline said it will continue to operate five return flights a week between Perth and both Sydney and Melbourne to maintain minimum connections for those with permits to travel.
It comes as WA Premier Mark McGowan continues to suggest that he will maintain the hard border with both NSW and Victoria until at least early next year, until at least 90 per cent of the entire WA population has been fully vaccinated.
“Based on our discussions with Western Australia we know their borders won’t be open to New South Wales and Victoria until early next year, so we’ve sadly had to cancel the flying we had planned on those routes in the lead-up to Christmas,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
“We will maintain a minimum service for people with permits to travel, though, as we have throughout the pandemic.”
Despite recent rumours suggesting Queensland’s government could take a similar stance, Qantas has not made any dramatic changes in its planned schedule, however will “adjust” said schedule as needed.
Qantas has also brought forward the return of regular passenger services between Victoria and NSW from 1 December to 5 November 2021, off the back of Victoria’s roadmap.
Meanwhile, the return of international flights is “still on track” to gradually restart from 18 December, “when Australia is expected to have reached national cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80 per cent”, Qantas said in a statement.
“People are clearly keen to travel,” Joyce said, adding that the airline saw a 175 per cent increase in web searches in the week after it announced its plans to restart international services from December.
“The key factor in determining the ongoing demand level for international flying will be what the quarantine arrangements are for Australians when they return,” Joyce added.
“The seven-day home quarantine trial in New South Wales is a great step forward and we’re hoping the system evolves quickly for vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries to not have to quarantine on arrival, particularly given Australia itself is on track to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
“That’s fast becoming the standard between many countries overseas.”