Qantas Pulls International Flights Through March 2021

Filed Under: Qantas

Update: Qantas is now selling international flights as of July 2021.

Qantas seems to be taking one of the most aggressive approaches when it comes to cancelling future international flights, which I can’t blame the airline for, given Australia’s strict immigration policies.

Qantas pulls inventory for most international flights

Qantas has in recent days pulled inventory on all international flights through March 28, 2021:

  • The exception is flights between Australia and New Zealand, which still show as being on sale
  • The flights haven’t been formally cancelled, but rather inventory has been pulled, meaning that you can no longer book these flights; pulling inventory is typically a precursor to cancelling flights
  • The March 28 date coincides with the start of the Northern Summer schedule for airlines (while the Northern Winter schedule starts in late October), and when airlines make schedule adjustments it’s normal for changes to coincide with these “seasons”

Generally airlines don’t pull inventory for no reason, so while there hasn’t been an official announcement, it does seem like Qantas intends to cancel all international flights (except to New Zealand) through late March 2021.

This matches what Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said a few weeks ago, when he explained that Qantas would likely cancel most international flights through the middle of 2021. No wonder Qantas retired 747s effective immediately, and doesn’t intend to fly A380s for years.

Still, in a way Qantas’ decision is surprising. The airline hasn’t operated nearly as many cargo flights as other airlines. For example, Delta plans to resume Australia flights shortly, and United has operated flights to Australia throughout the pandemic. The primary focus has been on cargo. I wonder why Qantas hasn’t been able to take advantage of that opportunity like US airlines have.

Qantas won’t fly the Airbus A380 for years

Australia planning for a slow reopening

Australia has had coronavirus largely under control, and as a result has closed borders:

Rather than prioritizing a restart of the tourism industry, the country is instead focused on keeping cases low.

When international travel is possible again, the country will first open up “travel bubbles.” It’s expected that travel between Australia and New Zealand will be allowed first, followed by travel between Australia and other low risk countries.

Only expect Australian borders to be open on a widespread basis if/when there’s a vaccine.

Australia is planning a very slow reopening

Bottom line

Qantas has pulled most international flight inventory through March 28, 2021. If that schedule sticks, it means Qantas won’t have operated long haul flights for a year.

This ultimately wouldn’t be surprising, given Australia’s strict immigration requirements. At the same time, this would make Qantas one of the only global airlines in the world to suspend long haul operations for a year.

Are you surprised to see Qantas pull inventory all the way through March 2021?

  1. This is interesting. If they substitute A380 flights with 787s, what’s there to substitute the 787 flights? Australia-San Francisco and Perth-London, for example, can’t be operated using the A330. Which London layover are they planning to keep, I wonder? Perth, to minimise the odds of case transmissions, or Singapore, which is much more lucrative?

  2. Largely under control if you exclude the state of Victoria. They are going under a 6 week lock down where they cannot leave their homes.

  3. He’s still dragging his feet on refunds…preferring credits toward future flights…despite the ACCC ( Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) instructing QANTAS to offer the option of refunds.
    The Australian govt has been making oblique references to not opening borders until well into 2021 ( linked to the universal availability of a vaccine). In recent weeks that message has started to firm up .QANTAS is taking it as pretty much writ-in-concrete.
    In the context of this sex scandal related second wave in Melbourne ,all talk of travel bubbles has disappeared, as has the ludicrous suggestion that international students could be flown in on charters ,prior to the borders being open for other travel.

  4. ouch.. I wonder what’s gonna happen to their Project Sunrise? Are they gonna end up postponing their New York and Sydney non-stop flights, preferably by 2025 or 2026? Anyways, the Aussies seem to be doing a good job and I am glad they chose to cease international flights temporarily. But to be really frank, I am afraid COVID-19 cases could spike back up once winter starts in the Northern hemisphere and start the quarantine saga all again.


  5. Well, there goes our 3 week trip in November to Perth on CX, no doubt. We had 1F and 2J tickets.

    I also note that AA has pulled it’s PHL-ZRH schedule for winter. My late February itinerary is there but only the flights for SYR-PHL, with nothing for the trans Atlantic portion.

    The world is looking at the US and wondering just how bad it will get. This isn’t “just the flu”.

  6. Lucky, one major correction for your article: it isn’t that quarantine facilities are limited, but that the government isn’t prepared to allow the quarantine facilities to grow exponentially. They want to put a cap on things to limit the potential for further failings (in Melbourne, Victoria, quarantine protocols were not up to standard and this has now led to a second wave, with nearly 300 new cases identified today).

    As for Qantas’ decision being surprising, it’s not really that surprising. Qantas clearly doesn’t see operating international flights for limited cargo only as worth their while. Their domestic passenger arm makes the bulk of their profit, around 70% according to their 2019 figures. Running flights with cargo only would certainly be loss making for them and Qantas isn’t a behemoth like the US airlines. They’re smarter shuttering until able to resume operations.

    For those of us in Australia, international travel won’t be happening until at least July 2021. Even if a vaccine was developed today, manufacturing and widespread global immunity would be a minimum 6 months away at very best in wildest dreams (more likely a year if being conservative).

  7. Not really surprising. I hope once this over the Chicago/Brisbane route will finally happen!

  8. This is not based on any commercial reason. QF is not operating flights till mid next year for labor/industrial reasons.

  9. I am not at all surprised by this move. In fact, to certain markets like the U.K. and any of the U.S. gateways, I would not be surprised to see no or very limited Qantas operations through fall 2021 or even longer. Given the extremely low infection rates in AU (despite the recent uptick in Victoria), even the “vaccine” will not be a panacea if efficacy is only in the 50-60 percent range (which I believe is the minimum for FDA approval). Sadly, the U.S. is experiencing such a horrendous surge that community spread will be around for a long time and that is likely to have a severe impact on non essential cross border to travel to anywhere where infection rates have been successfully tamped down. We had a big trip planned to AU year end 2020 which of course has been cancelled. I would not be surprised if I could not confidently rebook until 2022 or even 2023. I am now taking the grim view that for Americans the world is going to be a smaller place for the next 18-24 months. Heck, even Europe or Canada are big question marks right now.

  10. Sad to see another airline taking advantage of the pandemic and cutting its service to high paying (or redeeming) customers.

    No champagne and plate service. No unique bedding and turn down service. No in-flight snack bar. And now, no in-flight whatever.

    All done in the name of screwing some of you out of your rightfully earned perks. Frankly I’m shocked only one of the comments above has whinged about their lost travel.

  11. @Todd
    I saw 3 A380’s sitting in LAX two weeks ago at the MX hanger

    Couple of days ago I saw a geek tweet of a flight of one of them from LAX to Victorville, I suspect that won’t be the only one. (SQ have parked some of their A380s at Alice Springs, not sure why QF didn’t do likewise.)

  12. Stupid approach they took – the isolation will cost them much more than reopening, considering this is some kind of flu. In addition that is not sure there will be any vaccine. I understand closing borders when there is high uncertainity, but now when we know much more ? World, stop being ridiculous !

  13. I don’t think a country with 20 odd million population can sustain and survive economically being cut away from the world for such an extended period of time. Australia more than the US needs foreign spending, more so during such periods. I can only see this decision by Scott Morrison as being naive.

  14. Good to see Australia returning to its penal colony roots…no one in…no one out.

    I’m sure Australian businesses are happy that their customers won’t be able to see them for the next nine months.

    And I also assume that the Chinese government is getting great terms to keep the Australian economy afloat.

  15. Is the Qantas dreamliner direct flight from London Heathrow to melbourne going to be cancelled in oct/ Nov
    The Qantas website does not tell you any flights have been cancelled

  16. Wow, these comments are pretty shocking . If you read the comments made by Aussie’s on various travel websites, they seem pretty supportive of government. In fact the big debate appears to be when and if trans Tasman travel can begin. Forget opening the borders with the U.S with our record.

    Fact: the US is handling the disease incredibly poorly. Infections are soaring where I live. Why would AU want to risk undoing all its hard work? AU international tourism is a small fraction of its overall GDP. They may attempt travel bubbles but only with countries who have fought the spread of the disease as successfully as Australia has demonstrated. I support their move fully and Qantas is just adapting to their new normal. These prior comments just seem like they are right out Breitbart and Fox News drivel.

  17. Not surprising at all, and entirely justified. It’s also refreshing to see a government deal responsibly with this. And hilarious to see all the entitled morons here posting their complaints and feelings of outrage.

    Thanks to the disastrous US response to the pandemic, it is indeed starting to look like we won’t be able to travel freely until 2022 or 2023. Don’t like that? Thank Trump.

  18. Has Qantas thought about it’s South Pacific neighbours or are these islands not a lucrative and appealing market?

  19. @Narvie – Some South Pacific neighbors would be candidates for the “bubble” later on. NZ is the obvious first one. There’s been talk of some other island destinations after that. And multiple Asian countries look like good candidates for bubble-buddies once they get to that point (Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore seem to have managed things very well and are often mentioned as potential bubble buddies).

  20. Like others, I have some doubt how long the Australian government can maintain this isolation. I think they will have to find a way to open, at least cautiously (e.g. with mandatory testing, country specific entry requirements allowing only people from low infection areas entering etc.).

  21. Back in March I posted, ” the borders will not open to at least Jan 21″ so no surprise and no surprise if it’s even longer. Those of you who seem to put a value on a human life seem to forget the cost of deaths on an economy, the fear that deadly disease does to a consumers confidence? They are appear to be many economic experts on here who seem to have little or no knowledge of the Australian economy what so ever. We are likely to enter a reccession the first in 30 years, with LNG added to our exports we have monthly export surpluses, highest percentage of people who own their own home, furloughed with 75% of your salary capped at AUD120,000pa about USD80,00.00 etc.. We are a wealthy nation per most metrixs, debt as a percentage is very good to most countries. Refernces to being a China own subsidiary? In the last month China has cancelled Barley imports doubled the import taxes on Australian beef and delayed on wharves most of our exports costing billions and rising because we stand up to them we gave the Hong Kong people the right to visas to live here. China was not happy about that and it will cost us, we value human life more than profit so please explain to me what is wrong with that?

  22. Another idiot on here, this one is named @jason. Thinks he knows much but obviously knows little, or nothing.

  23. JW – Australia is an extremely wealthy country. It absolutely can survive a year cut off with ease. The actual question is SHOULD it, not can it. While it won’t be crippling, the economic impact will definitely be bad.

    EC2 – We can indeed leave our homes, it’s no different to the initial lockdown at the beginning of the crisis. You can go to work/school, go shopping, visit partners and go out for exercise. You can even get a haircut (which I’ve always thought was absurd given the other restrictions!).

  24. @D Durm
    Don’t cancel your flight. Wait until QANTAS cancels…then the onus is on them to provide the full refund; if you cancel first, they’ll apply the most onerous cancellation fees under the T&Cs of the ticket. QANTAS is NOTORIOUS for doing this. Joyce loves to promote himself as ‘hail fellow well me’ and nothing if not reasonable; more likely he’d sell his grandmother for sixpence….

  25. @Paolo – that is very sound advice. QF have a strategy where they block inventory but do not cancel until as close to departure as possible even though they have no intention to operate the flight (eg already in their internal systems)

    They want people to change their flights to credit so they keep the cash, and deliberately make refunds take up to 12 weeks.

  26. “QQantas has removed almost all international flights through to the end of March 2021 from its website – a date which would mark a full year since the airline first grounded its international fleet due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    While the flights themselves have not been cancelled, and all previous bookings remain in place, the move prevents new bookings from being made on any overseas Qantas route except for flights to New Zealand.”

  27. Thanks Paola. It is a Business class award ticket, but still monopolizing my points. I will hold it and hope they don’t cancel. Scott Gottlieb says this will all be over by January. We will see. – Best

  28. My wife and I visited “home” most every year for almost 4 decades. We were cancelled this year. And won’t go back so long as the 14 day quarantine remains, since we only have 3 weeks vacation time. Maybe 2022?

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