Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has revealed the details of a conversation between him and WA Premier Mark McGowan, in which the Premier promised that Perth-London flights could resume in 2022.
The conversation occurred during a telethon event last month, in which one of the auctioned prizes was a Qantas Perth-London flight.
Speaking on Sunrise earlier this week, Joyce said he used the opportunity to press Premier McGowan on his plan to reopen his state and allow Qantas to return to its iconic direct Perth-London route.
Joyce said there was a “backup plan” in place for the winner of the auctioned ticket, in case WA’s border remained closed, which was to “fly people to Karratha”, about 1,500 kilometres from Perth – a far stretch from the 15,000 kilometres journey to London.
The Qantas boss joked that Karratha was a great alternative, “because that’s the closest physically you can get to London [in WA] and there’s a good English pub there where you can be served a warm beer”.
“So, then I said [to the Premier], ‘So what are we actually selling in the auction – a London ticket or a Karratha ticket?’ – and he said, ‘you’re selling a London ticket, we’ll be open again’.”
Joyce explained that like WA’s border reopening, the return of the Perth-London QF9 flight would hinge on the western state’s vaccination rate, with Premier McGowan standing strong on his decision to wait until 90 per cent of the population aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated.
Revealing his roadmap out of COVID-related border closures earlier this month, Premier McGowan confirmed that once the 90 per cent target is hit in WA, travel “from all jurisdictions across Australia”, as well as overseas, will once again be permitted.
All travellers into the state will need to be fully vaccinated and return a negative COVID PCR test 72 hours prior to departure. Arrivals will also need to perform a second PCR test within 48 hours of entering WA.
The Perth-London flight has been in limbo since WA shut its international borders in 2020 and imposed some of the strictest domestic border restrictions in the country.
Qantas confirmed in September that it will “temporarily” reroute its flagship London-Perth service to fly via Darwin until “at least” April 2022.
The airline previously suggested that it might opt to reroute its direct flights between Australia and London via Darwin, as opposed to Perth, in light of Western Australia’s “conservative border policies”.
Last month, Qantas hinted that Perth could permanently lose its exclusive status as a transit hub for flights between London and both Sydney and Melbourne, depending on demand.
In a pointed statement, the carrier said it would watch how the new route performs and would remain “open-minded about what it could lead to down the track”, suggesting Darwin could become a more permanent fixture.
Chief executive Alan Joyce previously said that if the route generates “good interest and good traffic” it could be in addition to the Perth layover.