Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has revealed that over 2.5 billion frequent flyer points have been spent on flight redemptions since 1 October, suggesting Australians are ready and waiting to return to the skies as soon as borders reopen.
It comes after numerous reports that Australians are facing extremely high international airfares, and will continue over the coming months, as airlines quickly ramp up their schedules and recoup losses.
Speaking at the Flight Centre Travel Group Illuminate conference, Joyce said, “There may be a period of time where [airlines are] going to see a shortage of capacity, because markets are opening up rapidly, and it takes a while to reactivate [and] train pilots, reactivate aircraft, but that will have a short-term impact [on airfares].”
The airline boss said that in the medium-to-long term, airfares will become “very attractive”, once airlines like Qantas can return to “positive cash flow”.
However, higher airfares are not currently a significant deterrent for those Australians that are missing travel, with Qantas boasting a “huge interest” in advance bookings for next year, and Joyce said that frequent flyers are also taking the opportunity to cash in their stockpiled loyalty points for flights and upgrades.
Joyce stated that following a sale announcement earlier this week, which opened up more seats per flight for frequent flyer redemptions, “we had the largest day of passenger reward redemptions in our history on that day.”
“Since the first of October, we’ve had 2.5 billion points redeemed,” he added.
Notably, the points purchases were made after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia would begin reopening its international borders from November, which subsequently saw Qantas push forward its planned return to overseas services.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on 1 October that fully vaccinated citizens and residents would be able to leave the country freely and return without hotel quarantine in November.
Later, on 15 October, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that from 1 November, fully vaccinated international arrivals would no longer be required to complete any form of hotel or home quarantine.
Perrottet’s announcement deviated slightly from the national plan announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, which specified a seven-day period of home quarantine for those returning to Australia.
Within hours of the announcement, Qantas pushed forward its planned restart for international services from Sydney to London and LA to 1 November.
The move saw the airline’s major international restart brought forward by two weeks, after Qantas previously announced it would begin international flights to 14 November.
From 1 November, Qantas will operate up to five return flights a week from Sydney to London, via Darwin, and up to four return flights a week from Sydney to Los Angeles with its Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Flights to London will operate via Darwin until at least April 2022.
The airline said more flights will be added to meet demand, if needed.
Qantas also announced earlier its intentions to return five of its 12 Airbus A380s to service “ahead of schedule” and see 10 of the 12 back in the sky by 2024.
The airline said it will use the five A380s to fly between Sydney and LA from July 2022, and between Sydney and London, via Singapore, from November 2022.
The airline had previously stated that while it was committed to retaining its A380 fleet, the four-engined jets were unlikely to return to service until 2023.
Qantas also announced it will retire two of its A380s, despite earlier predictions stating all 12 will come back into service.
It marks the beginning of the end of Qantas’ iconic A380 fleet, following the decided end of the Airbus A380 program, as Airbus nears delivery of its last-ever A380 to Emirates.