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Qantas stuck on the tarmac in pandemic recovery journey


Qantas boss Alan Joyce made a typical boast this week: that his airline was in a better position than any other in the world to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

If true, it’s a case of being the best in a bad bunch. Just a day earlier, the peak body representing airlines globally warned that the industry remained in a “perilous” position.

Forward bookings for February and March are still down 80 per cent, more airlines are set to collapse and passenger numbers are not set to recover to 2019 levels until 2023, the International Air Transport Association said.

Qantas shut down its international operations and cut its domestic flying to just 5 per cent of normal levels when the crisis struck last year.

Australia’s almost unparalleled success in stopping the spread of coronavirus should have set the country’s biggest airline up for a rapid return to the skies. But the mammoth task of repairing its finances is facing severe delays, as state governments continue to slam their borders shut at the first sign of any COVID-19 outbreak.

Qantas is also rebuilding itself in a dramatically different landscape. Its main rival Virgin Australia has been revived from administration and reshaped as a leaner and meaner competitor with the backing of private equity giant Bain Capital, while country carrier Regional Express is trying to muscle in on the lucrative capital city market.

Investors also appear to be realising that Qantas’ recovery will take longer than previously expected. Its ASX-listed shares have fallen 15 per cent since late November.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has hit out at state governments for their "inconsistent" border policies that have upended his airline's recovery.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has hit out at state governments for their “inconsistent” border policies that have upended his airline’s recovery. Credit:Louise Kennerley

The stock, trading at $4.80 on Friday, has recovered from $2.14 in March when COVID-19 put markets in a tailspin. Despite that boost, its shares remain down 30 per cent from a year ago compared to a decline of only 4.6 per cent across the benchmark ASX200 index.

Joyce told a Reuters event on Wednesday that the Sydney northern beaches outbreak before Christmas, which prompted all other states to block travellers from Greater Sydney, set Qantas’ recovery back by three months.

The group had planned to be flying at 80 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic capacity in the first three months of this year, but Joyce said it will now only be flying at 60 per cent.

Joyce also told the event he still hoped to hit 80 per cent in the June quarter this year but acknowledged the situation remained “volatile”, and hit out at the states’ “inconsistent” border policies.

“We have to wait to see what happens with the borders – we’re still waiting for Sydney to open up to states like Victoria and Queensland,” he said.

Sondal Bensan, an analyst at Pendal Group, Qantas’ largest shareholder, says the airline’s short-term fate is effectively out of its control.

It finds itself at the mercy of state governments deciding when to open and close borders, and its outlook hinges even more critically on how quickly Australia can roll out COVID-19 vaccines.

“There’s still the opportunity to get the full domestic schedule back up before the vaccine is rolled out, but the risk of panic border closures will remain,” Bensan says. “Vaccinating and getting herd immunity will be the key turning point”.

There’s a human cost to the delayed recovery too. Around Qantas 13,500 staff remain stood down from work and receiving JobKeeper payments, which are set to expire in March. Qantas has announced 8,500 redundancies – almost a third of its workforce – since the pandemic hit, part of a cost cutting drive designed to save $15 billion over three years and lower its annual cost base by $1 billion after that.

Qantas quickly raised $1.4 billion in fresh equity and $2.7 billion of new debt early in the pandemic to ensure it had sufficient liquidity to survive a long shut down of its operations.

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After burning around $40 million a week during the depth of the crisis, Joyce reaffirmed his view that Qantas should stop bleeding cash in the first half of this year (excluding redundancy payments) provided borders are reopened. That will allow it to start paying down its $5.9 billion debt pile.

The group expects a $11 billion drop in revenue this year and is heading for another substantial statutory loss this year after ending 2020 $1.9 billion in the red. Despite this horror forecast, Joyce is optimistic Qantas can still break even this financial year on an underlying level (a measure which strips out one-off costs).

Andrew Peros, the deputy head of equities research at Ausbil Investment Management, which owns about $14 million worth of Qantas shares, said the stop-start recovery was “not ideal”.

“However, Qantas has a high degree of flexibility in its scheduling and fleet to move aircraft around and partly mitigate the impact,” he said. “The profit recovery and balance sheet repair story gets pushed out, but this is just a timing issue.”

While Qantas’ finances are in the worst shape since 2015, Peros said its balance sheet risk has reduced materially since the vaccine roll-out was brought forward and it had more than enough cash to survive until herd immunity was achieved.

There have been positive signs whenever borders have reopened, with Australians rushing to book tickets to visit friends and family after spending most of 2020 separated.

Qantas was set to be flying at 70 per cent capacity at Christmas but that fell to 60 per cent after the Sydney cluster threw travel plans into disarray for tens of thousands of people in what could be a cautionary lesson for many.

You probably need a good two or three months of zero new cases for that confidence to come back into air travel.

Aviation consultant Tony Webber

Qantas’ domestic business generates two-thirds of its profits, while its profitable frequent flyer business and freight arms have continued to deliver earnings throughout the crisis.

Tourism will be the main driver of the recovery, Joyce said this week, with hopes many off the 11 million Australians who normally travel abroad every year will holiday at home.

That means Qantas’ budget arm Jetstar will be coming back to full capacity much faster than its full-service “red-tail” jets. And Joyce acknowledged for the first time that video conferencing, which has become ubiquitous during the pandemic, would take a bite out of travel demand from Qantas’ lucrative business travellers.

Tony Webber, an aviation consultant and former chief economist at Qantas, said the rush of bookings pre-Christmas may not continue because of the snap state border closures. More damaging than the loss of ticket revenue, Webber said this had destroyed the public’s confidence in booking any travel in the future.

There are around 70,000 Victorians stuck in NSW and trying to return home after the state enforced a hard border in response to the Sydney outbreak.

“The second we get an outbreak the borders are closed and there’s either a mad dash to get home, and if you can’t get home you’re stuck,” Webber said.

“You probably need a good two or three months of zero new cases for that confidence to come back into air travel. That will be a deeper impact, I think, on Qantas’ domestic profits.”

The outlook for international travel is even more uncertain. Qantas’ entire international network is suspended beyond New Zealand and a handful of government funded long-haul repatriation flights.

Qantas has now reopened bookings on most of its international network from July 1 in the belief that the rollout of vaccines will make it possible for people to travel overseas again.

That move prompted a firm reminder from Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack last week that the government would only lift its ban on citizens leaving the country when it was safe to do so.

There had previously been a hope that Australians could start travelling overseas once they were immunised, armed with a “vaccine passport”.

But Joyce agreed this week with leading epidemiologists who say the fact vaccinated travellers might still catch COVID-19 and bring it home and spark a new outbreak means Australia needs to achieve herd immunity before international travel can resume safely.

With Australia’s vaccine rollout not set to finish until October, Joyce acknowledged that its July start date for international flights could change but said it was “still our hope”.

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Qantas has parked all 12 of its Airbus A380 superjumbos in the Californian desert until 2023, which is how long it thinks it will take for international demand to recover to 2019 levels.

Even when quarantine-free travel between countries is possible, international travel will be severely challenged in 2021.

The well-respected aviation industry intelligence firm CAPA-Centre for Aviation this week forecast that the number of corporate travellers – who fill airlines’ money-making business class cabins and underpin the economics of long-haul flying – will be perhaps 50 per cent lower in the second half of 2021 compared to pre-COVID.

“Most trunk routes will not be commercially viable,” CAPA chairman Peter Harbison said.

Pendal’s Bensan says Qantas opening up international ticket sales, which are typically booked six months in advance, will help reverse the flow of working capital that gushed out of its coffers when it was hit by an avalanche of refund requests early in the pandemic. This was a more important measure than profitability for the next two years, as it was key to it repairing its balance sheet.

“If you look at it on balance from six months ago, realistically the domestic situation has gotten a little bit worse with the domestic COVID cases,” he says. “But the offsetting component of that from a liquidity point of view is that the time frame for international travel has been pulled forward a lot.”

Qantas’ will also be contending with a very different domestic market than before the pandemic.

Virgin has stripped its domestic fleet back from around 80 jets to just 56 Boeing 737s after it collapsed into administration in April as the pandemic hit, and has repositioned itself in the middle of the market.

This may allow Qantas to become even more dominant in the lucrative corporate travel sector. But Virgin says it is now a serious player in that market after an extensive restructure under the leadership of former Jetstar boss Jayne Hrdlicka and with the deep-pocketed backing of Bain Capital.

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Meanwhile, country airline Regional Express’ bold move to launch jet services between Sydney and Melbourne in March, to be followed by other capital cities, is predicted to trigger a new airfare war between the three groups.

Joyce this week predicted only two of the three airlines would remain standing in the long term – and Qantas would be one of them. But some company watchers believe Rex’s entry and a revived and restructured Virgin will cause serious headaches for Qantas.

Credit Suisse analyst Paul Butler thinks Bain will do a better job at running the perpetually loss making Virgin and will be able to take a bigger share of the domestic profit pool, while Rex’s entry will chip away at Qantas’ market share.

With Qantas’ balance sheet in its worst condition in five years and international travel being grounded for at least another six months, it was “perplexing” why Qantas’ average annual market cap remained at an all-time high, Butler told clients in a note last month.

Qantas’ market value is currently sitting at around ten times its book value, he said, which was an “extreme all-time high” compared to its 25 year average of 1.6 times.

Joyce, already in the top job for 12 years, committed last year to sticking with the carrier until at least 2023 to steer it through its unprecedented crisis. For all his confidence, a smooth touchdown is far from guaranteed.

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Qantas boss Alan Joyce predicts Virgin and Rex won’t both survive post-pandemic battle


Qantas boss Alan Joyce says Australia still only has room for two major airline groups and it is unlikely both Virgin Australia and new rival Regional Express (Rex) will survive the post-pandemic aviation dogfight.

Mr Joyce said in an interview on Wednesday that country airline Rex launching flights between Sydney and Melbourne in March would spark fierce competition on the busy route.

Rex will start Sydney-Melbourne services in March.

Rex will start Sydney-Melbourne services in March. Credit:Robert Pearce

“My personal view is that this market has never sustained three airline groups and it probably won’t into the future,” he told an online event hosted by Reuters.

“You can be guaranteed that Qantas will be one of them – it’s who else is going to be in the market place post this and into the future is going to be interesting.”



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Qantas reopens international bookings on vaccine hopes


Qantas said its decision to start selling international tickets was based on its best projections of a vaccine rollout, and that customers will be refunded, rebooked or given travel credits if flights don’t go ahead.

The airline’s boss Alan Joyce last year said that a wide distribution of a vaccine would be necessary for quarantine-free travel to resume to destinations like the US and UK and would be a condition of travel, along with the possible need for a “vaccination certificate”.

The federal government has also flagged possible compulsory vaccinations for travellers in its COVID-19 vaccination policy but it has not decided on its final position.

Qantas had previously suspended bookings to London and the United States until October, but has now scheduled flights to these destinations from July, showing optimism COVID-19 vaccines will be rolled out widely enough over the next six months to restart overseas travel.

However, services to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan that were set to resume in March have now been pushed back to July 1, as the prospect of establishing COVID-safe “travel bubbles” with those countries evaporates.

A Qantas spokeswoman said the carrier had “aligned the selling of our international services to reflect our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021”.

“We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation,” she said.

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New Zealand is the only international destination Qantas is currently flying to. While major routes such as Los Angeles and London are back on sale, Qantas is yet to return destinations including New York, Santiago and Fiji to its network.

Even when the airline restarts long-haul flying it will be at a significantly reduced capacity after mothballing its fleet of 12 Airbus A380s super-jumbos in deep storage until at least 2023.

Most of its 11 Boeing 787s Dreamliners were also sent to storage in Victorville, in Southern California, but all except one are back in service operating either freight services or government-chartered repatriation flights, which in the past week has included operations from Frankfurt, Chennai and London.

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Earlier this year, Qantas retired the last of its iconic Boeing 747s that operated on the Santiago and Johannesburg routes.

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Qantas eyes Japan Airlines tie-up to kick-start COVID revival


Virgin Australia was set to start flights to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in March this year and had a codeshare with ANA but the pandemic put those plans on ice.

Virgin has since shut down its long-haul international operations after going into administration in April and does not expect to restart them for another 18 months to two years.

In its application to the ACCC, however, Qantas argues that Virgin has flagged its intention to eventually fly to Japan, while ANA was a “particularly aggressive and effective competitor”.

One-stop carriers Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, which had a respective 7 and 6 per cent market share on Australia-Japan routes in 2019, would also compete aggressively, Qantas said.

“The [joint venture] is inherently geared to maximise consumer interest,” the submission says. “It will deliver greater public benefits faster and with more certainty than a future without it, in an intensely competitive market.”

Qantas said the tie-up would encourage the two airlines to “expand rather than restrict capacity and to invest in an improved product offering which is likely to stimulate innovation and price competition from others”.

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If Qantas and JAL try to price gouge, the application says travellers would simply fly with one of the other airlines or in the case of holidaymakers, choose other destinations.

ACCC approval would allow Qantas and JAL to coordinate on pricing, schedules and marketing, which the airlines say would result in “improved travel products, delivering more choice for customers”. Frequent-flyer members would also receive better benefits when travelling with the other airline. The ACCC waved through a similar joint-venture arrangement between Qantas and American Airlines in 2015.

Qantas said it expected the ACCC to make a decision within six months and that the joint venture could start around July 2021 when it expects international travel will resume.

Mr Joyce said that if approved, the joint venture would be a “win for our customers, a win for trade and a win for the one million people who work in tourism across Australia”.

“Around half a million people visited Australia from Japan in 2019. We want to see that tourism resume and grow even further by making it easier for Japanese travellers to visit,” Mr Joyce said.

“It also helps us diversify our portfolio of joint businesses among Australia’s key trading partners.”

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Coronavirus borders: Qantas, Virgin flight changes


Australia’s major airlines are scrambling to adjust their schedules as passenger change fights amid a coronavirus outbreak that has Sydney’s Northern Beaches region exiled from many parts of the nation.

So far 28 cases have been detected across Sydney’s Northern Beaches with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian telling residents on Friday to brace themselves for the number of COVID-19 diagnoses to increase.

Queensland has declared Sydney’s Northern Beaches a hotspot while WA has implemented self-quarantine measures for NSW arrivals. Victoria has also reintroduced a permit system for NSW travellers, and said northern beaches residents and visitors would not be eligible.

A Qantas representative said they will be contacting passengers affected by the border changes although they are already being inundated with calls.

They have asked passengers to not contact their call centre which is being placed under pressure.

“We are seeing a high level of inquiry from customers in Sydney looking to change their travel plans, so we’d ask anyone not travelling in the next 14 days to please avoid calling our contact centre to help us manage these volumes,” they said.

“Customers can manage their booking directly via qantas.com and jetstar.com or via the Qantas app.”

Virgin Australia has already started making changes to its schedule as it meets the demand of those wanting to return from Sydney to avoid quarantine.

A Virgin Australia spokesman said their scheduling changes would be flexible to deal with passengers, either wanting leave Sydney or return from interstate.

“While New South Wales services are currently operating as normal, changes to customer demand and booking trends may require us to adjust our forward schedule,” the spokesman said.

“Any impacted customers will be provided with options to re-book on alternative services or be able obtain a travel credit for use at a later stage.”

One new case in Queensland involved a woman from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“We are on high alert,” she told reporters on Friday.

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young has instructed any Queenslanders who had been to the Northern Beaches since December 11 to isolate at home for 14 days and come forward for testing.

“From midday tomorrow, anyone who has been in the Northern Beaches region in NSW since December 11 2020 will not be able to visit Queensland residential aged care centres, hospitals or correctional facilities,” Dr Young said.



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Qantas turnaround comes with a lingering hangover for Alan Joyce


It is equally astonishing that an airline that was bleeding cash at the rate of $40 million a week during peak-virus is anticipating it will be cashflow positive in the second half of the 2021 financial year (to June 2021).

The bottom line result will still be a statutory loss in 2021 – the non-cash item of depreciation will be in part responsible and additional redundancy costs will also kick in, thus ensuring the result will be inked in red.

And this degree of financial recovery will be achieved without any contribution from its international flying division.

As Qantas sees it, the airline is now out of the intensive care unit but the financial rehabilitation will be a long process.

And this applies particularly to the airline’s balance sheet. Since the start of the pandemic Qantas has raised around $2.7 billion in gross debt some of which has been used to pay off other debt and it is currently sitting on net debt of $5.9 billion even after a $1.4 billion equity raising.

Still, Joyce is planning to add another $500 million to the group’s liquidity buffer — just as a contingency. So Joyce’s position could be best characterised as one of cautious optimism.

He cannot afford to approach the airline’s prospects based on the assumption the recovery will move in a straight line.

Recent history has clearly demonstrated that the risks of viral spot fires are real and the responses from state governments to close borders have thrown a spanner in plans to re-open the skies.

As of next week, when Western Australia removes the wall to the rest of the country, the federation will return but it can’t be relied on.

Therefore, Joyce’s operational and financial update was based on how it is looking at this point.

Qantas and its customers will have to wait a while longer for the promised non-stop east coast flights to London and New York on board the Airbus A350-1000.

Qantas and its customers will have to wait a while longer for the promised non-stop east coast flights to London and New York on board the Airbus A350-1000.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Thanks in large part to the opening of Queensland and Victoria, Qantas’ capacity is up to 68 per cent for the month of December and will rise to 80 per cent in the three months from January to March.

Joyce says that in the first six months of calendar year 2021 the process of balance sheet repair will begin. But realistically tackling debt in a meaningful way can’t begin until the international division takes off — which is slated to happen in the middle of next year.

Only then will Qantas even begin to dust off the Sunrise plan to run non-stop services from Australia’s east coast to New York and London. Even if Sunrise is revisited it will take three to four years to achieve take-off.

Realistically with balance sheet repair at the top of the to-do list, Qantas’s capital expenditure plans would be towards the bottom. Where resumption of dividends sits is unclear.

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The more immediate concern for Qantas is how the new-look Virgin tackles the market. It is a little early to see where Virgin’s fare pricing will land but its cost base is starting to take form with news this week it has negotiated its enterprise bargaining agreements.

Joyce makes no secret of the fact that he will be looking to the industry’s various unions to match any deals Virgin has extracted from its workforce.

Virgin’s time in administration allowed it to significantly cut its cost base, which will allow it to undercut Qantas on price.

The good news is that Virgin 2.0 is a smaller airline with less capacity and a reduced route structure.

Joyce’s challenge is to improve on its current 70 per cent market share. It has already poached 25 major corporate accounts from Virgin but the real prize for either airline is the SME market which make up the bulk of corporate travellers.

Joyce says the business market has come back quite strongly since the Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane (aka the golden triangle) has reopened. But it will need to increase the share on these routes to offset an overall decline in business travel that has resulted from the popularity of virtual business meetings.

In the business market, Zoom will be as fierce a competitor as Virgin or Rex.

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Qantas CEO says vaccines might open borders sooner than ‘travel bubbles’


Even with promising news on the progress of several vaccines, Qantas warned it still expects international flying would remain at a “standstill” beyond June next year, and then take years to recover.

Qantas has previously said it would be quick to add new services to destinations such as Korea and Taiwan if Australia opened a “travel bubble” with those and other countries that have successfully suppressed the virus.

The potential for vaccines to be rolled out […] faster than the bubbles happening is probably real at this stage.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce

But Mr Joyce on Thursday said vaccinations might come quicker, pointing to the slated Hong Kong-Singapore bubble that has been delayed several times due to renewed outbreaks.

“The potential for vaccines to be rolled out maybe faster than the bubbles happening is probably real at this stage,” Mr Joyce said.

Travellers from New Zealand currently do not have to quarantine when arriving in Australia, but it is necessary for those passengers flying in the opposite direction, and Mr Joyce said there was the potential for that to open up to two-way travel now that Australia’s state borders were open.

Within Australia, domestic travel is recovering faster than expected, with Qantas’ scheduled capacity back to almost 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels for December and set to hit 80 per cent early next year following the reopening of state borders, the airline said.

The rapid return to flying is an improvement from the airline’s outlook in October when it expected to be at just 50 per cent capacity at Christmas, and comes after it plunged to 20 per cent mid-year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to ground almost its entire fleet.

“Overall, we’re optimistic about the recovery, but we’re also cautious given the various unknowns,” Mr Joyce said in a trading update released to the ASX in the morning.

“It’s unclear what shape the domestic economy will be in next year, particularly once broader government support winds back. Until a vaccine is rolled out, the risk of more outbreaks remains.”

Qantas has announced 8500 redundancies since the start of the pandemic, or close to a third of its workforce, in an effort to cut costs – including 2000 job losses this week when it confirmed it would outsource all ground handling work to third-party providers.

Around 13,500 staff remain stood down from work, but the increase in domestic flying meant 11,500 were now working again, compared to 9000 in October. That is expected to rise to 14,000 by March.

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The group said on Thursday that while it was still on track for a “substantial” loss this financial year, it now expected to be close to break even at an underlying earnings level in the first half and net free cash flow positive in the second half, excluding redundancy payments.

That was based on the assumption that state borders remained open and international flying beyond New Zealand did not resume materially until after June.

Mr Joyce said COVID-19 would blow an $11 billion hole in the group’s revenue this financial year alone. That’s why Qantas had to remain focused on its recovery program, which involved “hard decisions” such as redundancies, he explained.

The cost cutting drive is aiming to save $15 billion over three years and shave $1 billion off Qantas’ annual cost base from 2023 onwards.

Qantas said its liquidity stood at $3.6 billion, made up of $2.6 billion in cash and $1 billion in an undrawn debt facility, which it intended to increase by $500 million to provide “additional standby liquidity”.

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Joyce, Andrews meet over plan for Qantas to call Melbourne home


Mr Joyce also toured Melbourne Airport on Wednesday to scout out potential locations for Qantas’ operations. Qantas has said it is looking to move its Brisbane-based heavy aircraft maintenance facilities, which employ 750 workers, as well as its flight training simulators currently based in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr Andrews, whose government this week unveiled a $49 billion budget spending spree to create 400,000 jobs over the next five years and drag it out of its COVID-19 recession, said in September he would pitch aggressively for Qantas to call Victoria home.

Dan Andrews said in September he was keen to get Qantas to call Victoria home.

Dan Andrews said in September he was keen to get Qantas to call Victoria home.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“We think that we have a very attractive offer to make and we’ll work through that to try and have as many jobs as we possibly can in our city and state,” Mr Andrews said at the time, adding his proposal would cover both office and engineering jobs.

It is not clear whether Victoria has made a formal proposal to Qantas nor what the scope of any such proposal is. A spokesman for Mr Andrews did not comment further before deadline on Thursday.

Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi said he was proud to be contributing to Victoria’s efforts to lure Qantas south, with his airport estate being more than six times the size of Melbourne’s CBD and already home to commercial offices, hotels and logistics providers.

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“We think there’s a really strong proposition that would be incredibly hard to match anywhere else,” Mr Strambi said. “The most recent commitments to airport rail underscore just how highly Victoria values aviation.”

Qantas is also talking to Queensland, South Australia and NSW sate governments about possible incentives packages. The airline has flagged one option could be to consolidate its office, training and engineering facilities at the new Western Sydney Airport, due to open in 2026.

The airline had expected to conclude its property review by the end of this year, but is now likely to announce a decision in early 2021.

Qantas’ decision to review its office footprint was prompted by the need to cut costs in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which has devastated airlines globally and seen the Australian carrier announce around 8000 redundancies, or close to a third of its workforce.

State government incentives to lure employment to the state is not uncommon. Victoria gave retailer David Jones a taxpayer handout to move 820 head office jobs from Sydney to Melbourne in 2016, while a bidding war for Virgin Australia’s head office after it went into administration in April ended with Queensland making a $200 million investment to keep it based in Brisbane.

The Queensland government also gave Qantas financial support two years ago to build its new $35 million flight school in Toowoomba.

Meanwhile, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said in September that the state would offer “every assistance to Qantas so they can keep as many of their employees as possible in NSW”.

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Qantas to require coronavirus vaccine before travel, Alan Joyce confirms


Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be a non-negotiable condition of international air travel, according to the Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

Anti-vaxxers will be grounded in the brave new world, with Mr Joyce confirming vaccination will be a requirement to fly internationally.

Mr Joyce has repeatedly warned that international air travel won’t resume until there’s a vaccine available for staff and travellers, but on Monday night he went a step further, telling A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw that as soon as a vaccine becomes available it will be a condition of travel.

“For international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft,’’ he said.

“Certainly, for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country we think that’s a necessity.”

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If anti-vaxxers want to try alternative airlines, Mr Joyce predicted they won’t be travelling far.

“I think that’s going to be a common thing talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe,’’ he said.

The revelation prompted ABC presenter Tracey Holmes to ask on Twitter: “Hello all my legal friends … is this legal?.”

Another journalist, The Australian’s cricket writer Peter Lalor, replied, “I hope so.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously suggested vaccination will be “as mandatory as you can possibly make it” before walking those comments back in recent months.

“There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis,” he said in August.

But just hours later, Mr Morrison told listeners on Sydney radio station 2GB that the Government would not make vaccination mandatory.

“It’s not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine,” he said.

“I mean, we can’t hold someone down and make them take it.”

The Qantas boss Alan Joyce is hoping to be back up to 60 per cent of the old business by Christmas as domestic flights resume between Sydney and Melbourne.

“If we can get Melbourne and Sydney back to where it was pre-COVID that will be 3000 people that didn’t have a role, were stood down, were working at Woolworths, somewhere else that are working for the airline again,’ he said.

Mr Joyce revealed 25,000 seats sold within 48 hours as soon as travel between NSW and Victoria opened up this month.

But it could be a long time before travel resumes to COVID-19 hot spots.

“Unfortunately with the levels of the virus in the United States and in Europe, we’re not going to see operations to those destinations in any real strength until we see a vaccine being rolled out, which is likely towards the end of 2021,” Mr Joyce said.





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Qantas hopes to fly internationally by mid-2021


Qantas is hoping to increase international flights by 50 per cent of its pre-COVID levels by mid-2021.

Like many businesses across the world, the major airline took a huge hit due to the coronavirus pandemic but aims to operate at about 60 per cent of its regular domestic schedule by Christmas.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said recent news of an effective COVID-19 vaccine was “positive”, so the company was “optimistic” international borders could reopen by mid to late next year.

“Our base plan is that we will probably get a significant amount of international operations up in the next financial year, which is between July and June,” he told the Nine Network.

“We always were assuming 50 per cent of it, (but) it is dependent on the vaccine.

“If those international trips convert to domestic within the next year, as people get comfortable with travelling on international, that is 11 million Aussies that will be travelling here in the domestic market.

“That is why we are confident in the early new year we could start seeing our schedule getting back to 100 per cent of pre-COVID levels because we can see this demand for people wanting to get around the country.”

Mr Joyce said that demand was clear after Jetstar sold about 120,000 tickets in 24 hours for travel post February.

“We are assuming that Queensland will open up and, given how well Victoria and NSW are handling COVID-19, there should be absolutely no reason why that decision isn‘t made at the end of this month.

“I want to see all Australians around the country being able to get together for Christmas, and I think psychologically and socially that is a very important thing.”

He reiterated that flying on aircraft was safe, citing a study that suggested the chance of catching COVID-19 on-board was very low.

He said there had only been 44 known transmissions out of 1.2 billion people who had travelled since the virus surfaced on Australian soil.

“We have hospital-grade filters that filter out COVID-19. The air is taken out 20 times and that is five times an hour.

“The whole process airlines have put into place with cleaning aircraft – giving people masks and sanitisers, we are changing the way people board the aircraft, changing the way lounges operate – has made it safer.

“Boeing have showed that sitting next to somebody in an aircraft is the equivalent of being seven to eight feet (more than two metres) on the ground apart from somebody.”

Qantas and Jetstar announced earlier on Monday they would now operate 17 return flights between Sydney and Melbourne, carrying around 4500 people each day.

The route is normally the network’s busiest in the country but dropped to just one flight daily during the pandemic.



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