Qantas sold 200,000 tickets in the 72 hours after Queensland announced its border reopening – but says it is still 'a long way off anything approaching normal'

More Australians are taking domestic flights.
  • Qantas is seeing a rise in its domestic capacity as more Australians book flights.
  • Domestic capacity has reached 68% of pre-COVID levels.
  • In the 72 hours after Queensland announced the reopening of its border to New South Wales and Victoria, more than 200,000 flight tickets were sold across Qantas and Jetstar.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

More Aussies are booking domestic flights as borders open across the country.

Qantas has seen its domestic capacity reach 68% of pre-COVID levels in December as Australians continue to book flights.

The airline is focusing on its recovery after the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the travel industry. While it expects massive losses in the 2021 financial year, it hopes to break even during the first half of the financial year. That’s if borders remain open and the majority of international travel doesn’t return outside of the Trans-Tasman bubble with New Zealand.

“We’ve seen a vast improvement in trading conditions over the past month as many more people are finally able to travel domestically again,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement. “There’s been a rush of bookings as each border restriction lifted, showing that there’s plenty of latent travel demand across both leisure and business sectors.”

The reopening of state borders has seen an increase in flight bookings. In the 72 hours after Queensland announced its border would open to New South Wales and Victoria, more than 200,000 flight tickets were sold across both Qantas and Jetstar.

“Bringing domestic capacity back to almost 70 per cent in December is very positive compared to where we’ve been, and so is seeing more of our people back at work,” Joyce added. “But overall the group is still a long way off anything approaching normal.”

While the airline is optimistic about its recovery, it still has a challenging road ahead as Australia awaits a coronavirus vaccine.

“International travel is likely to be at a virtual standstill until at least July next year and it will take years to fully recover, which means we’re carrying the overhead for billions of dollars worth of aircraft in the meantime,” Joyce said. “We’re also facing a revenue drop of at least $11 billion this financial year alone compared to pre-COVID.

“Overall, we’re optimistic about the recovery but we’re also cautious given the various unknowns. We also have a lot of repair work to do on our balance sheet from the extra debt we’ve taken on to get through the past nine months.”

On Monday, Qantas confirmed it will be outsourcing its ground handling services, slashing another 2,500 jobs. It was a move criticised by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), whose proposal to reduce costs associated with ground handling was rejected by Qantas.

“This is a dark day as Qantas management rejects a thorough and competitive bid by its highly skilled and dedicated workers to keep their own jobs,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said in a statement at the time.

As a result of the pandemic, around 8,500 roles have been cut across Qantas group. Around 13,500 people remain stood down but with domestic travel returning, the number of people currently stood up has reached 11,500.

Qantas’ international fleet is mostly grounded, save for repatriation journeys and flights to New Zealand. One part of the business that has been doing well is Qantas Freight, which has been booming due to a jump in ecommerce.

Competitor Virgin Australia has also seen an uptick in bookings for domestic flights. It expects to reach 60% of last year’s domestic capacity by January 2021.

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