Qantas to step up international flying amid ‘massive demand’ from Australians

SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX) said on Friday that it would speed up plans to restart flights to many destinations and upsize some planes amid “massive demand” for international flying as quarantine restrictions ease for Australian citizens.

All 11,000 of the airline’s staff idled without pay, around half its workforce, will return to work by early December as domestic and international flying returns to more normal levels, the airline said.

Qantas will bring back two of its flagship Airbus SE (AIR.PA) A380 super-jumbos in April – three months earlier than planned – and is in talks with Boeing Co (BA.N) about the delivery of three new 787-9s in storage to accelerate its international flight plans.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said for four of the last five weeks, the airline’s international sales were stronger than domestic sales for the first time since the pandemic began.

“There is massive demand for Australians wanting to see their family and relatives,” he told reporters. “There is massive demand for loved ones wanting to get together for Christmas. There is demand for people wanting to take that holiday that they have been looking forward to for nearly two years.”

The state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, last week said it would allow the entry of fully vaccinated travellers from overseas from Nov. 1 without the need for quarantine, although the easing of strict entry controls will initially benefit only citizens and permanent residents.

Neighbouring Victoria state, home to Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne, is set to announce a similar international travel policy to New South Wales, local media reported on Thursday evening, citing government sources.

Qantas said it would launch a new route from Sydney to Delhi on Dec. 6 and bring forward plans for flights to Singapore, Fiji, Johannesburg, Bangkok and Phuket due to the New South Wales rule change.

Joyce said the airline was also hopeful Indonesia would relax quarantine rules for Australians, allowing its low-cost arm Jetstar to begin flights to Bali by Christmas.