A Qantas A380 departs Sydney, Australia. Photo by Ernest Leung | AeroNewsX
Despite the airline's best efforts to maintain an international flying schedule through repatriation and cargo flights, Qantas, Australia's national airline, has been forced to cancel all of its international flights in and out of Australia with the exception of flights to Tokyo-Haneda and its trans-Tasman services to New Zealand. This is due to ongoing travel restrictions into Australia, which currently restrict any Australian citizens from leaving the country and enforce a mandatory 14-day quarantine for any visitors arriving in the country from overseas.
Qantas was forced to suspend all international passenger flights on the 30th of March 2020, in line with the Australian border closure to restrict the spread of the Novel Coronavirus. However, there have been some exceptions to this with Qantas being chartered by the Australian Government over the past four months to operate repatriation flights of Australian citizens from many global destinations including Los Angeles, Lima, New Delhi and Buenos Aires. Qantas has also maintained a limited international cargo flying schedule using its Boeing 767 freighter aircraft as well as its Airbus A330 passenger aircraft in order to ensure the stream of goods in and out of Australia remains flowing efficiently.
Some good news has come about for the carrier in recent weeks with the lifting of internal border restrictions throughout Australia, allowing Qantas and its budget subsidiary Jetstar to increase flights to 40% of their pre-coronavirus flying schedule during the month of July. However, Australia's international borders remain largely closed with few exceptions for compassionate visits, forcing Qantas to today announce all international passenger flights (with the exception of Tokyo and New Zealand) would remain cancelled up until October 24th 2020, which is the beginning of the IATA Northern Winter flying season.
The announcement today came without surprise, with Australia's Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham stating that "open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia... remains quite some distance off," and agreed that with the exception of some countries, international travel would likely remain prohibited until 2021." This means that the outlook for most international flights out of Australia until the end of the year looks bleak, with the exception of New Zealand and Pacific nations such as Vanuatu and Fiji which are already in talks with the Australian government for a travel bubble which could be opened as soon as September, according to New Zealand Premier Jacinda Ardern's spokesperson.
This announcement also comes as Qantas prepares for a quiet farewell of its last Boeing 747-400ER aircraft which is due to leave Australian soil for the last time on June 30th on a flight from Sydney to Mojave, California via Los Angeles for long-term storage. Qantas had originally planned to keep the beloved jumbos in service until the end of 2020 but an early retirement was brought about by the Coronavirus which meant the 747s last routes to Tokyo-Haneda, Johannesburg and Santiago were suspended due to the Australian border closures, suddenly rendering the Boeing 747s obsolete.
Coronavirus brings an early retirement for the Qantas 747 fleet. Photo by Ernest Leung | AeroNewsX