Qantas Reduces Domestic Capacity Again

The latest capacity cut comes after the state of Western Australia announced it will impose a 'hard border' in an effort to prevent the spread of omicron.

Credit: Rob Finlayson

Qantas Group has rolled back its March quarter domestic capacity target for the second time this month and now plans to operate just 60% of its pre-pandemic domestic capacity in the current quarter.

The update came just over a week after Qantas Group scaled back its planned March quarter domestic capacity from more than 100% of 2019 March quarter capacity to 70%. The latest cut has been attributed by Qantas to the Western Australian state government’s decision to keep its borders largely closed to foreign and domestic travelers, meaning Perth (PER), the fourth most populated city in Australia, is essentially taken off the airline's route map.

The state announced it will impose a “hard border” indefinitely from Feb. 5. Only essential trips to/from the state and “the return of legitimate Western Australians” will be allowed. “The updated plan means the full border opening will be delayed given the full impacts of omicron in Australia are still unknown,” the Western Australia government said in a statement.

Qantas said it will maintain minimal connectivity to PER “at a fraction of its pre-COVID [capacity] levels.” The carrier said it will operate up to 15 total domestic flights a week to PER from Adelaide (ADL), Brisbane (BNE), Darwin (DRW), Melbourne (MEL) and Sydney (SYD), “supporting essential personnel and freight.”

Qantas added: “The group retains the flexibility to adjust flying levels depending on demand and clarity on the border reopening in the weeks and months ahead.”

Qantas had been planning to resume its PER-London Heathrow (LHR) nonstop service in late March. The route is currently being operated via a stop in DRW. The timing of the resumption of the direct PER service is now “under review,” the oneworld member said. 

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As 2022 started, Qantas mainline was planning to get to 115% of pre-pandemic domestic capacity by April. LCC subsidiary JetStar was expected to reach 120% of pre-pandemic domestic capacity by April. The group overall was set to operate 102% of pre-pandemic domestic capacity in the March quarter.

Qantas rival Virgin Australia earlier this month suspended 10 routes from Jan. 24 through at least the end of February, including international flights to Fiji (NAN) and nine domestic routes, citing concerns over omicron.