Qantas revealed it would be cutting its flight capacity as the surge in Omicron COVID-19 cases has forced Australians to cancel or delay travel plans.
Passenger numbers have tumbled by around 20 per cent in recent weeks in Australia’s four busiest east-coast airports as people avoid public spaces, affecting the tourism, hospitality and travel sectors.
The Flying Kangaroo anticipated a swift recovery, post lockdown. But Qantas said in a statement earlier this week that it now expects domestic capacity for the third quarter of 2022 to be at around 70 per cent of pre-COVID levels – down from the 102 per cent that it had been planned.
“The sudden uptick in COVID cases is having an obvious impact on consumer behaviour across various sectors, including travel, but we know it’s temporary,” Qantas Group CEO, Mr Alan Joyce said.
Anticipated demand for international travel has decreased from 30% to approximately 20% of pre-pandemic levels because of increased travel restrictions in Asian nations such as Indonesia, Japan and Thailand.
But demand remains high for Delhi, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles and Vancouver.
Qantas has already been cutting capacity since December according to figures from the aviation data company Cirium.
Qantas had 63,068 domestic and international flights scheduled for the first three months of the year on December 3 but by January 7 that a fallen by 9468 to 53600.
It was also revealed that its sister brand, low-cost carrier Jetstar has cut 3287 flights over the same period to 23,955 flights.
Virgin Australia earlier last week also said it would cut almost a quarter of its schedule flights for the remainder of January and February as bookings tumbled and COVID-19 close contact isolation requirements caused massive crew shortages.
Average daily passenger numbers through Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide airports hit close to 61 per cent of pre-COVID levels during December, but that has tumbled back to 39 per cent so far in January.