As Australia signals its borders will remain closed for the remainder of the year, Qantas is wiping most international flights from its schedule until October. The sole exception will be some flights to New Zealand – they will remain in the schedule pending the opening of a travel bubble between the two countries. Otherwise, Qantas will be sticking to its home turf.
“With Australia’s borders set to remain closed for some time, we have canceled most international flights until late October,” said Qantas in a statement.
Australian border closed and expected to stay closed
Unless demonstrating exceptional circumstances, Aussies have not been able to leave Australia for several months. That ban now runs through to September 17. Further, while Australian citizens can return from overseas and go into quarantine, non-essential non-citizen inbound travel remains prohibited. Informally, an Australian Government minister yesterday flagged the borders remaining closed until the end of the year.
In a speech at Canberra’s National Press Club on Wednesday, Federal Tourism Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham said he didn’t expect tourist-related traffic in and out of Australia to re-open anytime soon.
When asked if Australia’s borders would remain closed to general tourist travel until 2021, Senator Birmingham said, “I think that is more likely the case.”
Whether coincidence or not, soon after, Qantas took international flying off its schedules until October 24, the start of the northern winter 2020 airline period.
“I think Qantas has made the decision that probably there is not going to be a lot of bilaterals agreed in terms of travel to and from until probably the end of September,” Flight Centre’s CEO Graham Turner told Channel 9 today.
“But in terms of letting tourism and travel just open up freely again, I think that’s quite some way off.”
Qantas international operations at a crossroads
The decision comes as Qantas’ international operations reach a crossroads. Their Boeing 747 operations will likely become just a memory. This week, the airline sent their second last 747-400 over to Mojave. There has also been chitchat about the future of its 12 A380s. The A380s sit parked at Sydney, Melbourne, and Los Angeles Airports. With six refurbished A380s and six older A380s, likelihood of the older A380s heading off to Mojave has been raised. The Mojave storage facility is a far cheaper long term parking yard than commercial airports.
Qantas international is going to come out of this a different looking airline.
The confirmation that Australia’s borders will remain closed for some time also puts paid to British PM Boris Johnson’s proposed airbridge between London and Sydney. PM Johnson recently said he wanted the airbridge up and running by the end of June. Perhaps he wanted to see those Qantas A380s hitting the tarmac at Heathrow again. Alas, that won’t be happening anytime soon.
UK airbridge out, NZ travel bubble in
Much more likely is a travel bubble opening with New Zealand. That does seem to be on the cards. Qantas appears to have some faith in this happening and has left some New Zealand bound flights in its schedule.
“We still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months, with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand,” Qantas said.
There were hopes that travel to New Zealand would be allowed by July. September is now looking to be a more likely start date. As for elsewhere, Australian’s are being advised to hold off on making international travel bookings. The same advice would apply for international travelers planning to head to Australia anytime soon.