Qantas has suspended selling tickets for its new services from Perth to Johannesburg and Jakarta weeks before they were due to launch.
The airline said it has “temporarily paused” sales while it works with government departments on the “customs and biosecurity requirements” of the flights.
The high-profile Johannesburg service was due to launch on 1 November and Jakarta on 30 November, with Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce even making the announcement in a joint press conference with WA Premier Mark McGowan.
The announcement raised eyebrows after the pair had several major arguments during COVID-19 — with Joyce comparing Western Australia’s border policies to those of North Korea. McGowan retaliated by arguing his pandemic restrictions actually made WA “the most successful economy in the world”.
In a remarkable turnaround, Joyce used the occasion to say he now thought the WA premier was “one of, if not the best, politicians easily in the country at the moment and he’s done a fantastic job here”.
“Indonesia is a rapidly growing economy that’s home to more than 270 million people, and these new flights will open up more trade and investment opportunities and a new gateway for travellers looking to explore Indonesia,” said Joyce.
“There’s a big South African population that lives in Western Australia and this will be great for people travelling in both directions to see family and friends. It will also help support the economic ties between Australia and South Africa.”
The Johannesburg route was set to be the only direct service from Perth to South Africa, operating three return flights per week on its A330s.
Qantas said the flights would cut more than six hours from the fastest current travel time, with customers heading to Johannesburg from Perth currently having to fly via Sydney or the Middle East.
The Jakarta route, meanwhile, is set to begin with three flights per week on its 737s at the end of November, in what would be the first time the airline has operated the route.
The bad news comes after three major unions last week came together to claim Qantas’ 1 per cent wage increase for workers is nothing more than a “PR stunt”.
In a joint statement, the Australian Services Union (ASU), Transport Workers Union (TWU) and Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) added the rise is “negligible”, and its members are “severely fatigued”.
The business is targeting an underlying profit before tax of up to $1.3 billion in the first half of the current financial year in what would be a remarkable post-pandemic turnaround.