Qantas Optimistic About Network Rebuild

The Australian carrier is ramping up domestic flying and resuming international routes.

Credit: Rob Finlayson

Qantas is seeing another surge in domestic travel as more Australian interstate borders reopen, and the carrier is also optimistic about international demand with the return of many overseas routes

The airline is experiencing a demand increase for flights to and from the state of Queensland in particular, said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit. This follows the recent announcement that the state will relax domestic entry restrictions from Dec. 13. 

Joyce said booked load factors on its Queensland flights for the week of Dec. 13 rose by 25 percentage points in the space of an hour after the border decision was announced. Other major interstate border flows have also been reopened during the past month.

Qantas aims to build its domestic capacity beyond pre-COVD-19 levels to accommodate rising demand. It expects to reach 100% of 2019 capacity in January 2022, Joyce said. Qantas will likely be operating 115% of pre-pandemic capacity by April, with LCC subsidiary Jetstar’s capacity expected to reach 120% by then.

Joyce said the priority for Qantas in 2022 will be getting its aircraft back in the air, and its stood-down employees back at work.

Qantas already restarted some of its international routes in November and December, and more will follow in early 2022. It started flights to India earlier this week for the first time in nearly a decade. The carrier is reopening 18 international routes over an 18-week period, Joyce said.

While many industry observers predict premium international demand will be very weak in the post-pandemic phase, Joyce believes Qantas premium demand will not suffer as much.

Joyce noted that Qantas typically has a relatively high percentage of leisure travelers in its premium cabins, comprising about 60% of its premium international traffic. Leisure travel is expected to rebound more quickly than business travel in 2022. Qantas operates many long-haul routes where premium seats are particularly valued for leisure travel, according to Joyce.