Qantas Pushes Back Restart Of International Flying To October 31

At the start of the year the CEO of Qantas said Australia would re-open its borders and allow the re-start of travel July 1. The government of Australia pushed back – not on the date, as much as over who gets to make that announcement.

But as the Covid-19 pandemic has raged on, new variants have become cause for greater concern, and Australia has only just begun vaccinations on a very small scale in the past week, Qantas admits July 1 isn’t going to happen and pushed back the re-start of its international route network further.

  • They’ll grow their New Zealand flying July 1

  • Most international routes will start October 31

  • New York, Osaka, and Santiago will have to wait, and the airline won’t take its next 3 Boeing 787 deliveries until these routes re-open.

  • The Airbus A380 won’t return until June 30, 2023 ‘at the earliest’ so international flights will all be operated by Airbus A330s and Boeing 787s.

An October 31 re-start targets expected completion of all Australian citizens who want a vaccine being able to get one, and Qantas has already said they’ll require proof of vaccination to fly.

I have a couple of Australia award itineraries (which were always speculative at best) affected by this change. I’ll need to see about getting award space opened on other later flights, once these flights show up as cancelled in my reservations.

(HT: BW)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. lol, could you imagine being an Australian citizen?

    Those people have been prisoners in that former penal colony for ages. It will be 18 months or so once this ends.

    We should refer to them as 2nd or 3rd world at this point – what humanity violations that is.
    And, of course the citizens LOVE it. Like the Kiwis. They cheer for their prison guards.

    ‘Keep us safe politicians! Do what you want, lock us up take everything – just keep us safe!’

  2. @George
    We are very happy to be alive and well in the middle of a pandemic, here in Australia.

    We don’t want the freedom to recklessly endanger our more vulnerable compatriots, thank you very much, and we don’t want people who would do that to be allowed in.

    Qantas are doing this from a purely financial perspective: they know they won’t be able to deliver any international flights this year but they want to get and hold onto the revenue, as “credits” for future travel. This is basically a grab for cash flow.

    Today 4 Australian states have revoked quarantine-free travel from NZ. There isn’t even going to be a Trans-Tasman bubble, let alone inbound tourism from failed states (Covid-wise) like the US, UK and EU.

    And while the (right-wing, what we call Liberal) government of Australia dreams of reopened international travel next year, the fact that they are going to have to vaccinate 60% of the population with Astra Zeneca (because they didn’t buy Moderna and refused to pay Pfizer more like Israel did to jump the queue) means that herd immunity won’t happen and next year we will end up closed again.

    The AstraZeneca jab is around 60-70% effective. You’d need to vaccinate 105% of the population to get herd immunity. On the plus side, 35% of us will get Pfizer, but herd immunity for Australia will be a close run thing. If even 10% of the population rejects vaccination we won’t achieve herd immunity until we revaccinate AstraZeneca recipients with a more effective vaccine.

  3. @DavidF – “The AstraZeneca jab is around 60-70% effective.” You’re describing effectiveness against symptomatic Covid, South African variant issues aside where we don’t have data it’s 100% effective against severe Covid which is what we actually care about, keeping people alive and out of hospitals.

    In any case forget herd immunity. If two-thirds of the population gets vaccinated it’s unlikely that there’ll be risk over overwhelming hospitals. And if you open borders to those who have been vaccinated, the chance that they’re asymptomatic carriers who spread covid is very low – and if it does happen viral loads will be low so the people they spread it to shouldn’t get very sick either.

    Now, I will say I am very jealous of my family outside of Sydney and Brisbane, who have been going on seeing friends and having brunch and whatnot for some time…

  4. @George should look up the number of deaths in Australia since the start of the pandemic up to today. Oh, don’t bother, it’s 909 (nine hundred and nine). Not half a million and rising like the USA!
    The only temporary sacrifice we have made is international travel. A small price to have a healthy near normal life with minimal restrictions, wouldn’t you say?
    Your so-called ‘freedom’ regrettably is the freedom to die or get horribly ill; all because you can’t handle such freedom in an adult responsible manner. To paraphrase: “Give me freedom, or give me death”, an old (probably Hollywood) catchcry, is looking a bit old now you are actually confronted by that reality.

  5. @Gary
    The AstraZeneca vaccine was declared 62% efficacious before the new British, Sth Africa and Brazil strains emerged. In recent days it had been reported that it is so ineffective against the Sth Africa strain that the authorities in that country have ceased vaccinations with AstraZeneca.
    The Australian Government has failed to keep up with events and in largely boxing themselves in with a huge AstraZeneca order which they seem determined to push onto the general public, are doing a disservice to its people.
    This micromanaged decision was made by the bumbling Prime Minister for reasons of cost, and the fact that the majority of it will be produced in Australia by an Australian company, CSL, which has quite a nice boost to its share price. Looking second-rate, but first-rate for shareholders who were fortunate enough to get in on the ground floor.

  6. How does one go about “seeing about getting award space opened on later flights”? Was under the impression we are at the mercy of the airlines here but maybe not?

  7. Gary,

    You bring up a good point in your article-what recourse do we have if an airline cancels an award ticket or revenue ticket other than being refunded the miles or refunded the ticket?

    I have a mileage ticket to PPT in April on United and a very cheap revenue flight back to the states. If United were to cancel these flights, would they waive the fare/mileage difference if I asked to be rebooked in June (if the flights are cancelled by United)?

  8. Today they announced half-yearly results: AUD 1.1 billion loss ( 900 million USD); might pale relative to the US behemoths , but a lot of money for a small/medium airline like QF.
    One suspects Joyce has learned his lesson: don’t create false expectations, and especially not to second-guess the government that is providing massive wage subsidies. It now seems he’s going with a conservative timeframe, perhaps hoping to get airborne sooner.
    In any case he’s a thoroughly disagreeable and odious man…

  9. @glenn t – the level of effectivness you’re citing is in regards to symptomatic covid and that isn’t what we care most about for public health, it was 100% effective against severe covid, it keeps people out of hospitals and keeps people from dying. studies of reduced effectiveness against the south african variant don’t tell us yet about whether it’s also less effective against severe disease.

    also “The only temporary sacrifice we have made is international travel.” that’s not true. Domestic travel was severely curtailed, most people couldn’t cross state borders. And there were restrictions on visiting people from outside their household as well.

  10. Herd immunity is built two ways – people who have had the virus and recovered and people who get vaccinated. In the case of Australia, there are very few of the former, so they will need a very high percentage of the latter. In the case of many countries, there are already a large but unknown number of the former (estimates seem to vary a lot), so that vaccines become effective with a much lower rate of injections.

    I think Gary’s focus is correct. What we care about is hospitalizations and deaths. The fact that people may still get COVID but with no or mild symptoms is not a valid reason to ruin our lives with never ending restrictions.

  11. Exactly. If the most severe cases are reduced down to levels similar to other endemic diseases there is no excuse not to resume normal lives. If Australia or anywhere else chooses not to resume international travel that’s between them and their citizens.

    Tonga has zero confirmed deaths. So I guess Australia has a lot to learn from them how to deal with a pandemic. And yes, Tonga and Australia are more similar than the US & Australia.

  12. Ryan: A better example is the Kingdom of Cambodia (population of 16.5M) with zero Covid-19 death. I do not think they have to even vaccinate the population.
    As far as Qantas, I would not count on them flying many routes in the near future. The likely scenario for Australia even after vaccination would be 10-14 day quarantine upon coming back home and likely the same rules for visitors. This will limit international travel severely.

  13. @Alex_77W Good call. Was more just referencing that islands in remote parts of the world can control spread through travel in a much different way.

    The US is not Australia. Better or worse. Making the comparison is pointless. For me, and many others, we understand the differences and appreciate that there was no perfect answer.

    The only question is, what comes next. To me, it’s a swift resumption of actual normal with vaccines. Not some new BS normal to satisfy the risk averse. Time will tell.

    And Qantas currently owes me a refund. So there’s that.

  14. One of the features / bugs of Australia is the ability to close its borders down – represented in the low numbers of covid cases, and the low numbers of refugees admitted.

    It is represented in the high level of freedom to eat at a restaurant right now, and the high level of citizens stranded overseas, not allowed in lest they infect the locals.

    It is represented in the low numbers of Covid deaths, and low level of empathy for those of us who have “followed the rules” for well on a year now and, through no fault of our own, still have to worry about our potential to infect or be infected.

    Australia’s good fortune – luck, expertise, or both or neither – is nothing to brag about. It is nothing to use as a suggestion of superiority or supremacy against the billions who have coped in a pandemic that has killed millions globally.

    As an Aussie in New York, I have found the country’s response “uncharitable” to say the least. I am both jealous and ashamed.

    A little introspection goes a long way.

  15. @ John
    I agree that the Australian response has featured elements of good luck ( mostly relating to geography) as well as decent policy. But I don’t believe the public is gloating about this relative success. It’s more “ there but for the grace of God…”
    However many members of the federal government do engage in cheap comparisons about Australia’s ‘success’ with that of other countries ( …but it’s more in the context of ‘look what we’ve done for you”). They are loathsome.
    The public would prefer the focus be on the facilitation of the return of Australians trapped overseas…and certainly not on the extraordinary effort to bring in thousands of tennis players ( plus hangers-on), celebrities, tv/film stars, assorted sleazebags and cronies.

  16. @ Paolo – I think your points are fair, and appreciated – but it’s sometimes hard to see it from the media (and the associated comments sections online, in which the most popular comments generally refer to “diseased people” and “stupid Americans” and people who didn’t “come home when they were told”).

    Having lived through HIV/AIDS, I am very conscious of who is accepted as collateral damage in a pandemic. In the 1980s it was gay men. In the 2020s it’s outsiders who don’t “follow the rules”.

    Australia has done nothing in the pandemic that hasn’t been done in New York, other than refuse to let people come and go as they need (along with some excellent contact tracing).

    The collateral damage in exchange for a Sydney-sider’s ability to go unmasked to the pub, however, is a terminally ill parent unable to see his kids or grandkids, or an asylum seeker trying to escape the ravages of war in Syria, or the pregnant citizen unable to get a seat on a flight from a foreign country when her visa has expired. If you were to line up these people in Darwin, it’d look – correctly – like a refugee camp. There’s a lot of them.

    I know you agree with me, so I don’t mean to preach to the converted. But Australia has decided that zero cases, and almost zero deaths is the strategy. And yet, as envious as I am, there’s always a cost.

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