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Qantas, Jetstar slash flights as coronavirus hits

Left: The normally bustling Hong Kong Airport is dear-deserted. Right: Qantas/Jetstar (Source: Getty)

Qantas and Jetstar will temporarily cut some flights to and from Asia as travel demand to the region falls due to coronavirus.

The cuts will reduce the number of Qantas’ and Jetstar’s international flights by 16 per cent and 14 per cent respectively, with fewer services travelling to and from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Thailand.

The flight reductions come as Qantas Group is estimated to take a hit of between $100 million to $150 million due to coronavirus.

These are the flights that will be reduced:

Qantas International

  • Sydney-Shanghai (the airline’s sole route to mainland China) – will remain suspended.

  • Sydney-Hong Kong – reduced from 14 return flights per week to 7.

  • Brisbane-Hong Kong – reduced from 7 return flights per week to 4.

  • Melbourne-Hong Kong – reduced from 7 return flights per week to 5.

  • Melbourne-Singapore – flights to be operated by Boeing 787s instead of larger Airbus 380s (approximately 250 less seats per flight).

Qantas and Jetstar will also reduce flights across the Tasman by 6 per cent and 5 per cent respectively, cancelling some flights to Sydney-Auckland, Melbourne-Auckland and Brisbane-Christchurch.

Jetstar

Jetstar will be reducing flights between Australia and Japan and Thailand, as well as reducing flights within its Asian network.

  • Cairns-Tokyo (Narita), Cairns-Osaka, Gold Coast-Tokyo (Narita) and Melbourne and Sydney-Phuket will each be reduced by up to two return flights per week.

  • Jetstar Asia (Singapore), Jetstar Japan and Jetstar Pacific (Vietnam) have suspended flights to mainland China and are reducing flights across the region. Jetstar Asia is reducing total seats by 15 per cent.

  • Additionally, the Group is looking at transferring an A320 aircraft from Jetstar to QantasLink to meet increased demand from the resources sector in Western Australia.

Domestic flights

Jetstar and Qantas will also cut domestic flights by 2.3 per cent to reflect reduced demand, with most cancellations to be between major capital cities during off-peak times to minimise customer impact.

Coronavirus grounds flights: Qantas CEO

Qantas and Jetstar’s reduced flights are the equivalent of grounding 18 aircrafts across the airline group until the end of May, which will impact about 700 full-time roles, said Qantas Group CEO Alan Jones.

“To avoid job losses we’ll be using leave balances across our workforce of 30,000 and freezing recruitment to help ride this out. We’ll also take advantage of having some aircraft on the ground by bringing forward planned maintenance.”

He added that coronavirus had initially led to suspension of flights in China, but that this had now spread to other areas of Asia.

“What’s important is that we have flexibility in how we respond to coronavirus and how we maintain our strategic position more broadly,” he said.

“We can extend how long the cuts are in place, we can deepen them or we can add seats back in if the demand is there. This is an evolving situation that we’re monitoring closely.”

But he remained confident that demand into Asia would rebound, “and we’ll be ready to ramp back up when it does”.

“These past few months have been extraordinarily difficult for the tourism industry and we’ve tried to minimise the impact of our capacity reductions as much as possible. About half of Qantas’ domestic cancellations are between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and we’re avoiding any route exits.”

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