Australia’s largest airline expects to resume flying to the United States and other international locations by Christmas, ending a ban that has been in effect since the coronavirus pandemic began.
“We know there’s a huge underlying demand. People don’t want another Christmas where they are isolated from their families, let alone internationally, but also in Australia,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said on Squawk Box Asia.
Since March of 2020, Australia has closed its borders to outsiders and banned residents from leaving unless there were specific, necessary reasons for entry or exit.
As vaccines have become more common in Australia and some countries around the world, Joyce expects rules to be relaxed in the coming months. The Australian government wants at least 80 percent of the population vaccinated before that happens, which could be in late fall.
“The government has said they think that’s a sensible plan,” Joyce said. “They don’t have a crystal ball, but they think that’s what likely will occur.”
If it does happen, Joyce said Qantas will be ready to “fire on all cylinders.”
Joyce said the airline would begin flights to highly vaccinated countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Singapore immediately. Other locations with lower vaccination rates would be delayed until next spring or summer.
“One of the biggest unknowns is the quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travelers entering Australia,” Joyce said. “If it’s 14 days in a hotel, demand levels will be very low. A shorter period with additional testing and the option to isolate at home will see a lot more people travel.”
When Qantas does begin flying again, it will be an airline where the entire workforce is vaccinated. The airline announced earlier this month that all pilots, cabin crew, and airport staff must be fully vaccinated by mid-November or they will lose their jobs.
“We provide an essential service, so this will help guard against the disruptions that can be caused by just one positive COVID case shutting down a freight facility or airport terminal,” Joyce said, according to the BBC. “It’s clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures, and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees, that means getting back to work again.”