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Qantas extends suspension of most international flights until late October

Aviation Updates Philippines – Australian flag carrier Qantas will be extending the cancellation of most of its international flights until late October, with the possible exception of some flights to New Zealand.

This announcement comes after Australia's trade and tourism minister Simon Birmingham said that Australia will likely keep its borders closed to foreign travelers until next year.

"With Australia's borders set to remain closed for some time, we have canceled most international flights until late October," a Qantas spokesperson said in a statement.

"Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand returns, we can add more flights back into our schedule," the spokesperson added.

Flights to neighboring New Zealand, which has mostly kept its COVID-19 outbreak under control, may resume earlier, however. Despite the cancellation of most of its international services, Qantas said that it still has "some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months."

Government officials from both Australia and New Zealand have raised the possibility of a trans-Tasman travel bubble, though a formal agreement has yet to be reached. This is partly due to concerns over the possible resurgence in COVID-19 cases if travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine were to be lifted.

While Qantas' international flights remain suspended, the gradual easing of local restrictions has helped fuel the demand for domestic air travel. This week, the Qantas Group saw their domestic passenger numbers double to around 64,000. By end-June, the airline will be increasing its capacity to 15 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels, up from five percent. By July, this is expected to increase further to around 40 percent.

The decline in air travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has also forced Qantas to rethink some of its plans for the future.

Last month, Qantas announced that it will be indefinitely suspending Project Sunrise, which would have seen the launch of flights from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to cities such as London, Paris, and New York using a fleet of modified Airbus A350-1000 aircraft capable of servicing 18 to 20-hour flights.

Qantas' A380 refurbishment program, which began last year, has also been put on hold, and all of its A380 aircraft have been put into storage. The airline said that it expects all 12 of its A380s to be in storage "for some time" as it waits for the demand for international air travel to recover.

Photo by Mark Harkin

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