Qantas is hoping to increase international flights by 50 per cent of its pre-COVID levels by mid-2021.
Like many businesses across the world, the major airline took a huge hit due to the coronavirus pandemic but aims to operate at about 60 per cent of its regular domestic schedule by Christmas.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said recent news of an effective COVID-19 vaccine was “positive”, so the company was “optimistic” international borders could reopen by mid to late next year.
“Our base plan is that we will probably get a significant amount of international operations up in the next financial year, which is between July and June,” he told the Nine Network.
“We always were assuming 50 per cent of it, (but) it is dependent on the vaccine.
“If those international trips convert to domestic within the next year, as people get comfortable with travelling on international, that is 11 million Aussies that will be travelling here in the domestic market.
“That is why we are confident in the early new year we could start seeing our schedule getting back to 100 per cent of pre-COVID levels because we can see this demand for people wanting to get around the country.”
Mr Joyce said that demand was clear after Jetstar sold about 120,000 tickets in 24 hours for travel post February.
“We are assuming that Queensland will open up and, given how well Victoria and NSW are handling COVID-19, there should be absolutely no reason why that decision isn’t made at the end of this month.
“I want to see all Australians around the country being able to get together for Christmas, and I think psychologically and socially that is a very important thing.”
He reiterated that flying on aircraft was safe, citing a study that suggested the chance of catching COVID-19 on-board was very low.
He said there had only been 44 known transmissions out of 1.2 billion people who had travelled since the virus surfaced on Australian soil.
“We have hospital-grade filters that filter out COVID-19. The air is taken out 20 times and that is five times an hour.
“The whole process airlines have put into place with cleaning aircraft – giving people masks and sanitisers, we are changing the way people board the aircraft, changing the way lounges operate – has made it safer.
“Boeing have showed that sitting next to somebody in an aircraft is the equivalent of being seven to eight feet (more than two metres) on the ground apart from somebody.”
Qantas and Jetstar announced earlier on Monday they would now operate 17 return flights between Sydney and Melbourne, carrying around 4500 people each day.
The route is normally the network’s busiest in the country but dropped to just one flight daily during the pandemic.