Qantas is eyeing a restart of international flights by December, targeting countries with the highest vaccination rates first. The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means direct flights to London could be some of the first to resume. However, the airline is considering moving its long-haul London service from Perth to Darwin due to strict COVID border policies in the Western Australia state.
Direct London flights planned for December
Despite posting a significant loss for the full year 2021, Qantas is looking ahead to a better future. As well as bringing back its A380s faster than expected, the carrier is hoping it can resume some of its international services soon, as early as December, if all goes well.
The carrier’s focus for international resumption will be on nations with high vaccination rates. This would include Japan, Singapore, Canada, and the US, as well as the UK. Australia’s government is eyeing a gradual reopening of international borders once vaccination rates in the country reach a level of 80%. At the present rate of rollout, this is expected to be achieved by December this year.
The airline says that its ability to fly non-stop between Australia and London is anticipated to be in very high demand, higher than pre-COVID. It is investigating using Darwin as a transit point, either in addition to or instead of Perth.
Restrictive border policies
The reason for considering the move is the somewhat conservative border policies in place in Western Australia. At present, anyone arriving from a state with more than 50 COVID cases a day needs to have proof of vaccination, as well as a PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel.
The WA Government is classifying other Australian areas as either very low, low, medium, high, or extreme risk. A period of 14 days with lower case rates is required for an area to move down the grading system.
At present, New South Wales is classed as ‘extreme’ risk by WA. This would scupper any chances for Australians residing in Sydney or the NSW area catching the direct flight to London. With around a third of Australia’s population living in this area, 64.5% of whom live in Greater Sydney, this could significantly affect the demand for the Qantas flight.
In contrast, the Northern Territory, home to Darwin, has proven to be more workable for Qantas. The airline has already been using the airport as a landing point for its repatriation flights, and clearly thinks things could be easier to manage at the NT airport than at its WA neighbor.