- Qantas and budget subsidiary Jetstar have announced new plans to get their planes flying again.
- The airlines will triple capacity this month with the possibility they'll return to 40% of their normal operation by the end of July.
- The announcement will see the eight routes frozen at the outbreak of COVID-19 return, with a new one between Sydney and Byron Bay also unveiled.
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Australia's largest carrier could increase its number of domestic flights by eight times in the space of a few weeks, if all goes well.
Qantas and its budget subsidiary Jetstar are preparing to ramp up flight capacity as travel restrictions unwind, the airline revealed in an update on Thursday.
"We know there is a lot of pent up demand for air travel and we are already seeing a big increase in customers booking and planning flights in the weeks and months ahead," CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.
"We are gradually adding flights in June as demand levels increase, which will go from 5% of pre-crisis levels currently to 15% by late June. We can quickly ramp up flying in time for the July school holidays if border restrictions have eased more by then."
Pending the success of the government's three-step plan, Qantas said it was in a position to return to 40% capacity by the end of July, but would remain flexible to adjust to rebounding demand.
The airline said it would focus on capital city routes, particularly Melbourne-Sydney, as well as those in and out of the ACT. With Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia all still closed to the rest of the country, Qantas said it would focus specifically on intra-state routes in those states, connecting the likes of Broome, Cairns and Rockhampton with a slew of weekly flights.
The eight flight paths that were put on ice during COVID-19 will be resurrected, including Adelaide to Melbourne, Moree to Sydney, Melbourne to Newcastle, as well as Brisbane to Cairns and Townsville.
In an apparent nod to increasing demand among holidaymakers, Brisbane will begin flying again to the Whitsundays and Hervey Bay, while Byron Bay can welcome traveller from Sydney and Melbourne.
"The one million people who work in tourism around Australia have been really hurting over the past few months. These additional flights are an important first step to help get more people out into communities that rely on tourism and bring a much-needed boost to local businesses," Joyce said.
It comes after Qantas rolled out a range of new COVID-19 measures, but refused to give up the middle seat to enforce social distancing.
"Customers will notice a number of differences when they fly, such as masks and sanitising wipes, and we’ll be sending out information before their flight so they know exactly what to expect and have some extra peace of mind," Joyce said.
All Qantas and Jetstar customers will be allowed to make one change of date to their flight free of charge before 31 October to help coax flyers back.
However, there's still no more news on those possible $19 airfares Joyce has flogged.