Wow: Qantas Plans To Resume International Flights In July 2021

Filed Under: Qantas

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but this update in particular has me feeling incredibly optimistic about a return of widespread international travel. Is there finally a bright light at the end of this tunnel?!

Qantas selling international flights as of July 2021

Australia has been among the strictest countries when it comes to closing its borders due to coronavirus, and as a result, Qantas’ international fleet has more or less been grounded since early 2020. Up until recently the airline had canceled most international flights through at least October 2021, but that timeline has now been moved forward significantly.

Qantas has now put a vast majority of its international long haul network on sale for flights as of July 1, 2021. This includes the following routes:

  • Brisbane to Los Angeles
  • Brisbane to Singapore
  • Melbourne to Hong Kong
  • Melbourne to Los Angeles
  • Melbourne to San Francisco
  • Melbourne to Tokyo
  • Perth to London
  • Sydney to Dallas
  • Sydney to Hong Kong
  • Sydney to Johannesburg
  • Sydney to Los Angeles
  • Sydney to San Francisco
  • Sydney to Singapore to London
  • Sydney to Tokyo

It seems that this isn’t just a case of the airline arbitrarily adjusting its schedule, but I’ve also been hearing that the airline has contacted long haul cabin crew to inform them that they’ll be restarting training soon.

While schedules are scaled back a bit in terms of frequencies, some destinations continue to not be on sale at all, including:

Qantas will use 787s for a vast majority of its flights

Qantas’ A380s will continue to be grounded

It’s worth noting that while Qantas is planning on resuming much of its schedule, the airline will exclusively use Boeing 787s and Airbus A330s for these routes, meaning the carrier’s dozen Airbus A380s will continue to be grounded.

Last we heard Qantas plans to keep these planes grounded for several years, and it seems like there’s no change in plans yet with that.

No routes will be operated by A380s, so it could very well be 2023 when Qantas resumes A380 flights. Of course this timeline could be adjusted in either direction — it’s possible the airline will reinstate A380 flights earlier, and it’s also possible the airline will retire much or all of its A380 fleet. Only time will tell.

Qantas A380s will continue to remain grounded

This also means that Qantas won’t offer a first class product in the coming years, since the A380 is the only plane to feature first class.

Only Qantas’ A380s feature first class

Why Qantas’ development is significant

Regarding the updated schedule, a Qantas spokesperson says that the new schedule reflects the carrier’s expectation that international travel will restart around July 2021.

Now, in fairness, Qantas isn’t a government owned airline, and for that matter even governments change their minds on timelines constantly, especially in these unprecedented times. We don’t know if Qantas made this update in consultation with the Australian government, or if the airline is just going off of what’s out there to make as good of a guess as possible.

We also don’t know what expectation Qantas is going off of here:

  • Is this based on a belief that the Australian government will reopen borders to foreigners as of then (perhaps with proof of vaccination)?
  • Is this based on a belief that Australia will allow citizens to travel without a 14-day quarantine upon returning home?
  • Is this based on an expectation that enough people will be vaccinated in Australia, and/or in markets that Qantas flies to?
  • Is this based on a belief that there will be significant enough passenger demand to make these flights profitable?

Regardless, there’s something about this that gives me a lot of hope. We all know things are generally moving in the right direction with vaccinations, and many of us hope that by this summer things will be looking much better.

Realistically if Australia opens by July then I think it would be safe to assume that much of the world would be open as well, given how strict Australia has otherwise been. Qantas’ CEO has said in the past that the airline would require all international travelers to be vaccinated, though after backlash ended up backtracking a bit.

I suppose there’s also a more cynical way to look at this — some might argue that this is an attempt by Qantas to raise cash selling tickets, since it’s essentially like an interest-free loan. Personally I don’t think that’s what’s happening, though I think it at least has to be mentioned…

Could Australia be open in a matter of months?

Bottom line

Qantas putting most of its international network on sale for flights as of July 2021 gives me a lot of hope. It’s entirely possible that I’m just reading into this the way I want to. But to me this is pretty exciting, especially when it’s paired with crews starting to be recalled for training, suggesting the airline seriously has the intention of resuming long haul flights in just under six months.

Here’s to hoping that by the summer of 2021 much of the world is open for business, with few border restrictions.

What do you make of Qantas’ schedule update?

(Tip of the hat to Executive Traveller)

  1. I hate to be pessimistic but I would be very shocked if international flights did in fact go ahead. So many of the internal state borders are closed in Australia due to a handful of new cases per day in Sydney and Melbourne and vaccinations are not expected to commence until March. I do wonder if this Qantas being incredibly bullish and happily taking the revenue as they have stated they’re bleeding about $40M per week. It is possible 70-80% of the country could be vaccinated by July but I really think it would be closer to December given how conservative the government here have been.

  2. My guess would be that they are running out of cash, and selling tickets to flights in six months time they have no intention of operating is an easy way to get some short-term cash.

    Virgin Atlantic have been doing exactly this for months.

  3. LOL.
    As soon as 1 or 2 cases are detected, you can be sure Australia will go into full Lockdown mode for a minimum of 6 months.

  4. A senior Canberra official said recently expect Australia’s 2 week hotel quarantine to continue for a few more years at least

    I 10000% can’t see Australia “opening” by July. That is winter there – it’s when the virus increases

    State borders are still closing with 3-10 cases a day

  5. Booked with miles so a no-risk option for me. Hopefully vaccinations can go fast there once they get started (they only have 25-30 million max after all)

  6. This is not going to happen obviously.

    As someone mentioned its a good way to raise temporary cash.

    Air Canada has been doing the same – selling flights they never intend to opearate – except of course with them, there are no refunds – so its more of a permanent cash raising.

  7. Throwing darts at a calendar?
    Australia has 10 cases in Sydney and they close internal borders from neighboring States. But they will fly into the USA which has a multitude of cases.

    They have not even started vaccinations and based on European and US experience, this is going to be a long process.

    As some said, get cash now and worry about the refunds in 6 months, if there is still a business

  8. @Bob

    AC has a widely published and well-known policy of free changes and cancellations for ALL bookings through Feb 28 and that, of course, is a moving date.

  9. With Australia’s (frankly, insane) eradication strategy, I don’t see it happening. You could vaccinate 100% of the world and they still wouldn’t be able to reopen. If they freak out over 2 cases the way they do, the only option is to remain locked in the basement.

    Other countries can reopen as soon as the preassure on health care system is low enough (i.e. when high risk groups are vaccinated) and covid becomes “just another disease”. Australia won’t be that easy.

  10. Widespread international travel by July? Just looking at what is happening now shows how absurd such a claim is. The current rollout of the vaccine continues to be botched and there are new variants of the virus. Read up on what is going on in los angeles to see just how out of control things have become. Wouldn’t expect widespread international travel until late 2021 at the earliest. Maybe not even then. The US blew it yet again.

  11. Governments are changing rules daily, sometimes contradicting what they said just a few days earlier. No way on earth July 2021 is a meaningful fixed dated. It’s beyond optimistic to book trip for July now in January.

  12. @Todd

    If AC cancels your flight,there are no refunds,just credit vouchers (except ex EU where they got slapped)

    It’s why they keep selling fictional flights until close in…

  13. I have SIN-PER flight booked for coming April, and it still shows as on-time and not cancelled. Maybe there are some routes where they open up earlier?

  14. Is this April 1st? It must be a joke! Australia isn’t so keen on starting vaccinations. They rather wait and see how other nations fair. It is still inknown if a vaccinated person can still be a carrier and spreader.


  15. Surely they need to raise cash, but I can’t imagine QF would just start selling international tickets without consulting the government. They may not be government owned/run, but they are essentially the flag carrier and represent Australia in the international travel market. For one, I don’t think the federal or state governments of Australia would be too pleased with QF offering flights for sale that they have little intention of flying. Plus, it will be a PR nightmare when they inevitably have to cancel everything. It will cost them millions to bring aircraft and staff back online as well.

    That said, the hotel quarantines will almost definitely still be in place, likely through the rest of 2021. Either they plan on greatly expanding the number of quarantine rooms available, or more likely they require vaccination for all pax and testing plus self-isolation at home on return. My prediction is most of this schedule won’t stick, but QF will resume some sort of int’l flying by Q3 2021. I doubt BNE will happen as the Qld government hates outsiders, but a few MEL and SYD routes might work out.

  16. Qantas made it clear that their hope is the vaccine. Now, there are a few countries which are quick in this (well, actually one, Israel). As for the others, I doubt that by July a large share of the active population will get the vaccine, I’m afraid.

  17. I highly doubt they’ll operate all of these flights and they’ll all restart on July 1 but bear in mind:
    – Qantas previously pulled flights until late October 2021
    – Some schedules have been adjusted from what they would’ve been pre-COVID
    – Some routes like SCL remain suspended
    – As others have noted it’d be a PR nightmare to cancel these all again;
    So surely they must know or suspect something.

    The federal government has talked about travel bubbles with countries with lower rates of infection such as Singapore and if rates stay low that is a realistic possibility but same can’t be said for the US and Europe so restarting those routes is some way off.

    Obviously it is a bad sign right now that in Australia your state could be cut off from the rest of the country or locked out of your own state while on holiday with little to no notice just because of a handful of cases, so on one hand as an Australian I feel positive but have an uneasy feeling about what might happen if I was “stranded” overseas.

  18. By July they can vaccinate whole population. At least above 25 yrs old. If they want to keep quarantine for years – no problem – but I wouldn’t expect any tourists.

  19. Sorry, my wife just spoke to Qantas today abut our July 2019 flight credit. The Qantas rep said 2023 was a likely start of flights between US and Australia.
    Anyway, we’ll hope for the best.

  20. LOL. Yeah, this is absolutely meaningless. Extremely unlikely borders are generally open in Australia in July. Even if vaccination goes smoothly (and it’s not) governments aren’t just going to immediately open up borders widely. And it’s a stretch to think there’s going be anything approaching global vaccination by then.

    I’m as desperate to resume travel as much as anyone. But thinking this means anything is just wishful thinking.

  21. @Samo doesn’t know what he’s talking about re Australia’s COVID management policies. The official Federal policy has been one of containment (flatten the curve, blah blah blah). As individual States have been given responsibility for the task, without federal interference, they have performed admirably, virtually achieving elimination status due to successful strategies.
    However small clusters have occurred (mainly returning residents) which, with world-leading trace and contact teams, have been snuffed out quickly.
    My state (South Australia) has been gold standard in its response, and life has been pretty normal all through this pandemic.
    The few Karens have not gained any traction with their copy-cat calls for FREEDOM ! as we are all pretty happy (almost smug) with life here.
    There is no urgent need to roll out the vax program right this instant, so the government is sitting back (something they excel at) and observing how the guinea pigs in the USA and UK in particular respond to the vaccine.
    That being said, March 2021 (the date they have promised to start the jabs) is only 8 weeks away, so they better wake up and get the logistics in place!
    I’m sure Alan Joyce (CEO Qantas) will be having words in the right ears.

  22. Ben, just this morning local media are reporting that there are possible plans afoot to ban all international aircraft flying to Australian airports due to the new faster spreading strain from UK. That is until all workers who are involved with hotel quarantine are vaccinated. The vaccination rollout begins in March, with all adults to be vaccinated by end of 2021 and under 18s in early 2022.

    In my view, Qantas is overstepping the mark here but as some have suggested, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re doing it to get money coming in.

    Yes, the international travel ban only extends to March at this time, but that’s likely to be extended until at least November. I don’t see international travel starting until the world has a firm grip on covid and that’s unlikely until 2022 at earliest.

    I would not be booking anything right now.

  23. 1 July is the first day of the new financial year here in Australia, so my guess is it’s an attempt to get some cash on the books.

  24. If Qantas had not completed the share issue to institutions on June 26th 2020 then according to their Annual Results they would have had NEGATIVE tangible assets – more debt than assets to pay for it.

    That was despite not writing off one dollar on around 300 of their planes. The only write-down of note was to cut the value of their A380s by around 60%.

    If they’d written down the values of the rest of their fleet by even 5-6% then that would have wiped out all equity (including the June 26th raising).

    Q initially announced that the 6,000 redundancies would be completed (paid out) by Sept 30th, 2020 – now its by late Feb 2021. Guess where the cash for that is coming from? Perhaps just opened International ticket sales.

    People who had their existing bookings cancelled by Q have waited up to 9 months to be paid out – despite the ACCC intervening back in June to call out Q’s lack of refunding the cash.

  25. Well, the government has hit back at Qantas today. The transport minister has reminded Alan Joyce that the government, not him, decides when international travel resumes.

  26. @Andy
    “a few countries which are quick in this (well, actually one, Israel)”

    Israel has done a great job so far. Unless you’re Palestinian, of course, in which case you have zero access to vaccines.

    Some recent WHO research papers suggest it will likely be 2024 before most of the world is vaccinated.

    My employer is pretty sure an event we planned for Canada this November will need to be cancelled; and the chances of another planned event — in India in May 2022 — are looking dodgy.

    This Qantas announcement feels a bit optimistic to me.

  27. @glenn t
    Nothing you said disputes what I wrote. Australia is going for an elimination, which is insane and unsustainable unless you wish to be isolated forever, and enjoy harsh lockdowns every time an odd case appears somewhere.

    I am in a country that had thousands of cases yesterday and no one’s going into a jerk off reaction locking us down. Our lives are almost as normal as in Australian but we can be sure they will be the same tomorrow, in a week or in a month.

  28. Perhaps I’ll put it in a different way: My freedom of movement hasn’t been restricted for a single day since the pandemic begun. I could always go out, meet with my friends (as many of them as I want), etc. Can Australians say the same?

    I’ve been going to restaurants several times per week since early May. Was that possible in Australia at all times?

    I’m far more happy with European strategy of accepting the reality, than attempts to hide from the virus, which is really just delaying the day when you will have to face it.

  29. @’The nice Paul’ Jan 5th 2:51
    Palestinians have their own independent, separate health care system, and they have stated that they are about to get supplies for their vaccinations. So your backhanded compliment about Israel having done a great job with vaccinations with zero access for Palestinians has nothing to do with reality. Additionally Arab Israelis in Israel are being actively encouraged to go get vaccinations. Your style of commenting is similar to how dumb crowds some centuries back blamed Jews for the black plague. ‘Must have poisoned the well’ kind of stuff. Very sad. Be better.

  30. @Samo
    The official policy in Australia is containment. That policy was done so well elimination was achieved, subject to occasional cases popping up, usually related to returning travellers.

    There has been just 909 Covid deaths nationally since the pandemic was declared.
    I know where I prefer to be right now, and it plainly isn’t where you are!
    Sadly, your sanctimony is illusory.

  31. Ben, does the 787 have enough range to go nonstop DFW to SYD? @john

    Since QF was using the 787 for Perth to London and back (a longer flight than DFW-SYD) I’d say yes.

  32. Ben, thanks for the intriguing goss. I sure hope we can travel by October.

    Btw, your phrase “by the summer of 2021” is a bit insular for a travel article about Australia. We are in our summer of 2021 now. I think you meant “by the Northern summer of 2021”.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.