Qantas will face a huge test of its service and reliability after it revealed it expects to carry 8 million passengers over the Christmas period.
The airline said it would both increase the number of flights on key routes and swap in larger aircraft in order to boost capacity.
However, it insisted it will still maintain an “operational buffer”, including standby resources, to manage the surge in customers.
Qantas now said it’s operating at 95 per cent of pre-COVID levels for the second quarter of the financial year. That number is likely to be far higher over the Christmas period itself.
The capacity enhancements will include the Flying Kangaroo:
- Welcoming back its sixth A380 from storage;
- Increasing Sydney-Queenstown flights from 10 return flights per week to 14 per week from mid-December;
- Adding an additional three return flights per week between Sydney and Fiji for six weeks from mid-December;
- Using larger A330s to replace 737s between Sydney and Bali from 5 December until 26 January 2023;
- Introducing three new Jetstar A321neo LRs that will start flying across December this year and January next year, in addition to the first A321neo LR that joined the fleet in August. These aircraft will initially operate on domestic routes and between Australia and Bali;
- Qantas will use its larger Airbus A330 aircraft on up to 19 return flights per week on the route in December and January, up from 11 per week using a 737 currently – a total increase of more than 11,000 seats over the period.
The Flying Kangaroo said previously that it turned around its poor performance by investing $200 million for the remainder of the financial year to roster additional crew, train new recruits and pay for overtime in contact centres.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said, “It’s clear that maintaining our pre-COVID service levels requires a lot more operational buffer than it used to, especially when you consider the sick leave spikes and supply chain delays that the whole industry is dealing with.
“That means having more crew and more aircraft on standby and adjusting our flying schedule to help make that possible, until we’re confident that extra support is no longer needed.”
Across the industry, the domestic industry peaked at 97 per cent pre-pandemic passenger numbers in June, but it came alongside all-time records for delays being broken that month and in April and July.
Since then, the industry has recruited thousands of extra staff and cut flights to improve the passenger experience.
Brisbane Airport also recently revealed that at the busiest times, its domestic terminal would likely be at 100 per cent of 2019 passengers during the holidays.
The airport said it expects 55,000 people to pass through on peak travel days, alongside 14,000 international passengers.
Until now, the busiest day at the airport since 2019 was in September this year, with 12,300 international travellers.
Brisbane Airport itself reported enjoying a “very smooth period” during the state’s last school holidays, with the maximum wait time to pass through security peaking at only 20 minutes.
The organisation’s estimates backed up an independent analysis by Australian Aviation that showed it and Melbourne were coping well with the increase in numbers.