Qantas further extends international flight cancellations until March 2021

Aviation Updates Philippines – Australian flag carrier Qantas will be further extending the cancellation of most of its international flights as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on air travel worldwide.

This week, the airline removed its inventory for all international flights - except for a few flights to New Zealand - from its website until March 28, 2021. This means that flights can no longer be booked by passengers and is typically a sign of an impending official cancellation. 

For now, customers searching for flights to destinations in Asia, the US, and Europe on the airline's website will only be shown flights operated by partner carriers such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates.

This latest move by Qantas comes about a month after CEO Alan Joyce told Australian media that he doesn't expect to see the airline resume most of its international routes until the middle of 2021 and that it would be "years before international flying returns to what it was."

"We have to position ourselves for several years where revenues will be much lower and that means becoming a smaller airline in the short term," he told 7News.

Last month, Qantas said that it would be laying off around 6,000 employees - around 20% of its workforce - and would immediately retire its remaining Boeing 747 aircraft. It also grounded around 100 aircraft for up to 12 months or longer. This includes its entire Airbus A380 fleet which will be parked in the Mojave desert in California "for at least three years."

While the future may seem bleak for now, Qantas is pinning its hopes on the availability of a coronavirus vaccine, domestic tourism, and the possibility of "travel bubbles" with other countries which may help stimulate passenger demand.

The airline saw an increase in domestic passenger numbers in June after local restrictions were eased. However, the Melbourne metropolitan area and Mitchell shire in the state of Victoria experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases this month, forcing the region back into a strict lockdown that is expected to last until August.

Government officials from both Australia and New Zealand also previously mentioned the possibility of a trans-Tasman bubble to allow freer movement between the two countries, though a formal agreement has yet to be reached.

Photo by Brian Bukowski