Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has revealed that Western Australia’s decision to delay its border reopening by one month has cost the airline over $60 million.
Joyce has previously been critical of WA Premier Mark McGowan’s decision to backflip on his state’s reopening plan on 5 February, with a new reopening date now set for 3 March.
It comes as Qantas reported a $1.28 billion loss before tax in the six months to December 2021.
“Qantas certainly wasn’t the only business caught short when that opening was delayed,” Joyce said.
“We relied on that date, and we’ve lost more than $60 million as a result.”
“Not to mention the thousands of customers who were disappointed,” he added.
“Hopefully we can count on this new date and rebuilt confidence in travelling to Western Australia.”
Qantas had been forecasting a return to over 100 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity by March 2022, however WA’s extended border closure and the Omicron outbreak throughout the country forced the airline to slash capacity by over 30 per cent.
Qantas is now eyeing a full return to pre-COVID capacity by June.
Meanwhile, international capacity will remain subdued, at around 22 per cent through to March, and doubling to 44 per cent through to the end of June.
The WA border was originally scheduled to reopen to interstate and international travellers on 5 February, however, WA Premier McGowan announced in January that this would no longer be the case.
McGowan said the decision was made due to the Omicron variant being far more transmissible than its predecessors. No new date was originally set, however, last week McGowan revealed the state would be open for business from 3 March.
At the time, the Qantas boss spoke on 6PR Radio to criticise the decision, stating his airline, along with other businesses, rely heavily on certainty in order to make appropriate plans in advance.
“Supposedly the fifth of February was locked in, and like all businesses, we’ve got ready for that day.”
Joyce explained how the airline brought all of its staff back online from stand down, and reactivated aircraft, in order to cater to Western Australia once the border opened on 5 February.
“In the first week alone from when the border was supposed to open, we had 20,000 people booked to travel,” he said.
Joyce later went on to compare WA’s hard border situation to that of North Korea numerous times.
He later suggested delaying the border by just one month was “disappointing”.
“I don’t know what the extra month has given us in Perth,” he told Sunrise earlier this week.
“We were planned, ready and organised to open up on February 5 and now we are struggling to meet March 3 because we have people on leave that we asked to take leave and it’s a very disorderly opening.
“We will put the capacity on, but it could have been done a lot better than this and it’s disappointing.”
Joyce did ultimately welcome the decision to ease border restrictions and compared WA to North Korea for the second time.
“Finally, our country’s reunited. We are no longer North Korea and South Korea,” he said.
The delay also resulted in Qantas rerouting its iconic Kangaroo Route connecting Australia directly with London to fly via Darwin, as opposed to Perth, until “at least June 2022”.
Qantas announced in September that it would temporarily reroute its popular Perth-London passenger service via Darwin due to WA’s “conservative border policies”. Qantas said it felt confident with the redirect due to its many successful repatriations that operated through the hub amid international border closures.