The Australian airline is facing the “most challenging period” in its 100-year history.

By Meena Thiruvengadam
August 20, 2020
Advertisement

It will likely be at least a year before travelers can fly nonstop between the U.S. and Australia on Qantas again.

“We’re an airline that can’t really fly to many places — at least for now,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.

The 100-year-old Australian airline is facing what Joyce called the “toughest set of conditions” in the company’s history. He described Qantas as being in hibernation, a flying kangaroo whose wings are clipped and planes are locked in long-term storage.

Qantas stopped international passenger flights in April, though it has operated flights on behalf of governments in the U.K., U.S., India, Argentina, Hong Kong, and Peru.

It expects to gradually begin regular flights outside Australia’s borders, likely starting with destinations in New Zealand. A vaccine will probably need to be in place before flights to and from the U.S. can resume, Joyce said.

Australian flag carrier Qantas on August 20, 2020 posted an almost 2 billion USD annual loss after a "near-total collapse" in demand due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

“The U.S., with the level of prevalence there, is probably going to take some time,” he said.

When Qantas does restart international flights, it will be in fits and starts. “We’ve already had setbacks with borders opening and then closing again,” Joyce said. The Qantas of the future will also likely be leaner, with fewer opportunities for adventure-seeking pilots and flight attendants.

Qantas expects to be the last Australian long-haul carrier standing when international travel returns. The company operates both Qantas, whose long-haul routes connected 14 countries before the pandemic, and Jetstar, a domestic budget carrier.

Qantas has adapted to the coronavirus by providing passengers with masks and hand sanitizer, but it stopped short of requiring masks on all but a few routes. It began booking middle seats on domestic routes in May, according to Australian Aviation, making it impossible to maintain the physical distance recommended by experts.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter at @meena_thiru and on Instagram at @meenathiru.