Australian flagship carrier Qantas (QABSY) has canceled most of its international flights for the next four months on the expectation that the coronavirus pandemic will last through most of the year.
“With Australia’s borders set to remain closed for some time, we have canceled most international flights until late October,” Qantas said in a statement on Thursday.
A Qantas spokesperson pointed out that the country’s tourism minister, Simon Birmingham, recently said Australia’s international borders with most countries are unlikely to reopen until 2021.
There’s one possible exception: New Zealand, Australia’s neighbor across the Tasman Sea. Politicians have discussed the possibility of creating a travel corridor between the two countries — though nothing has been formally agreed yet. Currently, anyone traveling between the two countries is subject to a two-week quarantine. Non-residents of either country are banned from even flying those routes, with few exceptions.
“If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that’s New Zealand,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in April.
Qantas said that it still has “some flights” scheduled between the two countries “in the coming months.”
“Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand returns, we can add more flights back into our schedule,” the airline added.
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on airlines worldwide and caused $84 billion in losses for the industry this year, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Qantas in February reported that the virus could reduce its profit by up to 150 million Australian dollars ($100 million) in the second half of its fiscal year, though that was well before the full scope of the pandemic was realized. Qantas isn’t expected to report earnings for the full year for another two months.
The virus also forced Qantas’ only real local competitor, Virgin Australia, to collapse into administration earlier this year. The airline founded by billionaire Richard Branson is still working toward finding a buyer. Virgin is still flying during that process.
Although Qantas is canceling most of its international flights, a spokesperson for the airline told CNN Business that it is still seeing increasing demand for travel within Australia as local restrictions are slowly lifted. Qantas Group’s domestic passenger numbers within the country doubled this week to 64,000 people.
— Julia Hollingsworth contributed to this report.