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Qantas CEO: This is when international travel could return

Two Qantas passenger jets cross each other at Kingsford Smith International airport in Sydney June 27, 2013
Qantas CEO: This is when international travel could return. Source: Getty

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has revealed Australia could be open to international travellers, and indeed let Aussies travel overseas, “in the early New Year”.

Joyce told Sunrise said the national carrier had “always believed” in the possibility of bubbles between nations, which will begin with New Zealand.

“The way we’re going in Australia, that could open in the early New Year in both directions,” Joyce said. “That’s a massive market for everybody.”

But as the Covid-19 vaccine rolls out, so too will the border re-openings.

“We’ve always planned that from July next year we’ll start reactivating our long haul international aircraft, and get a lot of our people back to work, and that still looks like the plan,” he said.


“The news about the vaccines are very positive, which I think is great for that border opening plan.”

Joyce’s comments echo that of Australia’s trade minister, Simon Birmingham, who told Sky News that international travel would likely be back on the cards in 2021, but not in the first-half of the year.

"It's not impossible...I think the first half may be challenging,” he said.

The minister said any international travel would hang on the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine.

"Then of course the manufacturing rollout, distribution, uptake, all the other factors that come into how it is that a vaccine could change the way we look at things around this pandemic,” he said.

Which countries will Australia have travel bubble agreements with?

During Qantas’ October AGM, chairman Richard Goyder revealed the airline was keeping a “close eye” on new potential travel bubbles.

“Both Qantas and Jetstar are keeping a close eye on new markets that might open up as a result of these bubbles – including places that weren’t part of our pre-Covid network,” Goyder said.

“By early next year, we may find that Korea, Taiwan and various islands in the Pacific are top Qantas destinations while we wait for our core international markets like the US and UK to re-open.”

When will we see a Covid-19 vaccine?

Major manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna have led the race to the Covid-19 vaccine, with test trials revealing their vaccines are 95 per cent effective.

Pfizer has already applied for emergency use approval from US health authorities, and hopes to begin administering the vaccine as early as December this year.

Australia has a vaccine agreement with CSL’s AstraZeneca. This vaccine will reportedly be ready by the end of this year, but Aussies will likely need to wait until the end of January to receive it.

That’s because the vaccine must be approved by the US’ Therapeutic Goods Administration.

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