- Qantas could “easily” return to 50% domestic capacity by July if government restrictions were to ease, CEO Alan Joyce has claimed.
- Speaking to media on Tuesday, Joyce put pressure on the state governments to loosen up their barriers to interstate travel.
- He also played down the threat of Virgin Australia, saying COVID-19 remained the airline’s “major competitor”.
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Australian interstate travel could soon be back with a bang if Alan Joyce has his way.
Speaking on Tuesday, the Qantas CEO said the airline’s domestic fleet could be at least be back at half-strength by July if states play ball and lift COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“We don’t think we’ll go back to 100% honestly in July but we have the capability to easily add 40 to 50% of the capacity that we had before COVID-19 in that month and then a ramp up even further every other month,” he told media on Tuesday.
With Qantas and subsidiary Jetstar, alongside competitor Virgin Australia, currently flying at around 5% capacity, it could be a touch optimistic.
While interstate travel would technically be permitted under the National Cabinet’s three-step plan by July – pending any further outbreaks – state governments have shown they’re reluctant to rush into relaxing restrictions.
With Victoria the most cautious, and New South Wales the hardest hit, if both states were to drag their feet it could quickly curtail Joyce’s projections given they account for more than half of Australia’s population, and are home to its biggest airports.
But despite those potential limitations, Joyce is eager to get Qantas flying again. This week he announced passengers would all be issued face masks, although wouldn’t be required to necessarily wear them, alongside sanitising wipes. In addition, those flying would be asked to remain in their seats more, and follow social distancing rules in airports and lounges.
In doing so, Joyce maintained that COVID-19, not a scaled-down Virgin Australia, was the biggest threat the airline faced.
“Qantas will come out of this, adapt and be able to keep up with anything that’s there. Our focus is on COVID-19 being our major competitor and that will be there for a number of years,” he said.
While Qantas and tourism groups heap pressure on state governments to reopen, the other big hurdle will be how much appetite will be in the market for domestic travel.
With unemployment sharply rising and government support packages expected to be scaled back over the coming months, even $19 airfares might not be enough to coax everyone into taking a holiday no matter what their premier says.
Right now however airlines appear adamant they want to give customers, and themselves, something to look forward to at the very least.