Qantas is fast-forwarding the return of popular international flights from Sydney, with the rapid easing of travel restrictions allowing all Australian staff to return to the job by Christmas.
In a major Thursday morning announcement, the airline said the NSW Government’s decision to end COVID-19 quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals will see the carrier to accelerate its return to regular operations.
Flights from Sydney to Singapore, Bangkok, Phuket, Johannesburg, and Fiji have been brought forward by as much as three months.
In addition, Qantas said it plans to launch a new Sydney-Delhi route before the end of December, building from the repatriation flights it has operated on behalf of the federal government.
The carrier’s flights to destinations including Honolulu, Vancouver, Tokyo and New Zealand are still slated to resume in mid-December.
Closer to home, Qantas has also pledged to boost the number of Melbourne-Sydney flights as border restrictions come to an end.
Both Qantas and competitor Virgin Australia have reported a 150 per cent surge in bookings since the NSW announcement, with demand set to continue thanks to Victoria’s pledge to end its own quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals from next month.
The renewed appetite for international travel will be celebrated by families cleaved apart by Australia’s border closure, but it is also welcome news for Qantas staff, many of whom have been stood down for months.
“We are proud to announce today that all of our domestic crew that have been stood down, 5,000 people, will be back at work in early December,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told reporters.
The airline says a further 6,000 staff linked to its international operations will be impacted by today’s announcement.
International travel discussions underway, Morrison says
The changing of New South Wales’ border policies on 1 November will initially apply only to Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their close family members.
However, the shift still marks a significant step towards the return of international tourism into Australia, and eased border restrictions with popular destinations in the Asia-Pacific region.
Appearing alongside Joyce, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia is nearing a deal with Singapore to rebuild travel allowances between both nations.
“I was in a position, as you know, some months ago when I met with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Prime Minister Li in Singapore, to set up a new arrangement which will see our borders open more quickly to Singapore,” Morrison said.
“We anticipate that being able to be achieved within the next week or so, as we would open up to more visa class holders coming out of the Singapore.”
Qantas and the Indonesian Government are actively discussing the return of quarantine-free travel to Bali for fully vaccinated travellers, Joyce added.
The accelerated return of international flights was due to Australia’s progress on COVID-19 vaccination, Morrison said.
“The national plan is working, Australia is coming together, and we are realising the great efforts of the Australian people in rolling up their sleeves so we can move forward together and re-engage,” Morrison said.