Qantas and Jetstar are this weekend fielding calls from travel-starved Australians are announcing planes would take off overseas in December.
Airline boss Alan Joyce said he expected to resume international travel by Christmas with Singapore, the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and Canada on his target list.
The airline said its overseas flight plans are linked to the reopening of international borders, part of Australia’s vaccine rollout set to reach 80 per cent in December.
Destinations with high vaccination rates and low COVID risk will be the airline’s first priority for international travel with current projections for the end of the year “in reach”.
But Qantas revealed flights to riskier destinations with low levels of vaccination such as Bali, Phuket, Bangkok, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg will be pushed back to at least April 2022.
“The prospect of flying overseas might feel a long way off, especially with New South Wales and Victoria in lockdown, but the current pace of the vaccine rollout means we should have a lot more freedom in a few months’ time,” said Mr Joyce.
Qantas said its plan was dependent for Federal Government decisions in the coming months including requirements for quarantine for returning travellers.
A Jetstar spokesperson told Explore they had received a “strong response in bookings in international flights to New Zealand, Fiji and Japan planned in December this year.” A Qantas spokesperson also said there had been “a really positive response”.
While the UK and countries in North America and Asia have been slated as the first countries, it will also depend on entry policies of those countries.
Qantas said flights between Australia and New Zealand would go on sale for travel from mid-December, assuming the trans-Tasman travel bubble resumes by then.
Flights to Hong Kong would restart in February and the rest of Qantas and Jetstar international network would gradually open from April 2022.
Qantas said five A380s would return to service ahead of schedule to fly between Sydney and LA from July 2022, and Sydney and London via Singapore from November 2022.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen, including training for our people and carefully bringing aircraft back into service,” Mr Joyce said.
“We’re also working to integrate the IATA travel pass into our systems to help our customers prove their vaccine status and cross borders.”
Changes have been made to Qantas’ Fly Flexible policy to assist customers whose travel plans have been disrupted, such as an unlimited “fee free” date change for international flights booked by February 28, 2022.
Credit vouchers have also been extended for bookings made on or before September 30, 2021 to enable travel until December 31, 2023. Jetstar customers with a voucher can use it to book lights until at least December 31, 2022, for flights up to the end of 2022.