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Qantas and Jetstar Resume 300 Flights as Travel Restrictions Ease
Airlines around the world are slowly resuming services as governments begin to lift their Coronavirus-induced travel and work restrictions. Qantas and Jetstar are joining that trend, as the pair announced it will begin reopening domestic air routes throughout June.
Both airlines are currently operating at around 5% of their pre-pandemic levels. They plan to operate as much as 15% by July 1, which means they could add as many as 300 return services per week by the end of June.
“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,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.
Additional services will be added in July based on travel demands, viral trends and updated state policies throughout the month of June. If all goes well, the Qantas group could be operating at as much as 40% of its pre-pandemic levels in July.
“We can quickly ramp up flying in time for the July school holidays if border restrictions have eased more by then,” Joyce added. “Normally, we plan our capacity months in advance, but in the current climate we need to be flexible to respond to changing restrictions and demand levels.”
Passengers are encouraged to check-in for their flights remotely, and they will be offered optional facemasks and wipes to sanitize their seats. Planes will undergo rigorous cleaning to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
“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. “Importantly, the Australian Government’s medical experts have said the risk of contracting Coronavirus on an aircraft is low.”
The carriers’ efforts will focus on travel between capital cities, most notably the Sydney-Melbourne route. Canberra will see a notable uptick in services and there will also be additional interstate flights in South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.
Qantas is increasing its weekly frequencies on the Sydney to Melbourne route, one of the busiest domestic routes in the world, from 5 to 46 this month. Jetstar is increasing its own flights on that route from 7 to 21. The two carriers’ frequencies on the Sydney to Brisbane route are increasing from 5 to 21 and from 7 to 9 respectively.
“The one million people who work in tourism around Australia have been really hurting over the past few months,” Joyce’s statement said. “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.”
Not Blocking Middle Seats
One of the most notable aspects of this return is that both carriers will use middle seats. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously announced that decision, one that has drawn criticism from passengers across Australia who say that close quarters increase the risk of Coronavirus transmission. Joyce said that blocking out middle seats would be “uneconomical” for both airlines and would cause skyrocketing airfares associated with flying aircraft at less than full capacity.
Qantas Group Doctor Dr. Ian Hosegood argued physical distancing won’t be necessary on Qantas or Jetstar planes because the risk of transmitting Coronavirus onboard will be low, Sydney’s 7news reports.
“That’s due to a combination of factors, including the cabin air filtration system, the fact people don’t sit face-to-face and the high backs of aircraft seats acting as a physical barrier,” Hosegood said. “As far as the virus goes, an aircraft cabin is a very different environment to other forms of public transport.”
Qantas and Jetstar will allow travelers to change the date of domestic flights once without paying a fee. This waiver applies to bookings made before June 30 on flights between June 12 and Oct. 31.
Along with the increase in services, Qantas and Jetstar will bring back some employees who were placed on leave in March. But most workers will remain on leave or unemployed.
Individual states in Australia have different policies for new interstate passengers. The most common policy in place is to have such new travelers enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine, but those policies can vary from state to state. While Tasmania has a hard requirement that won’t be reassessed until mid-July, Victoria and New South Wales have no such policy in place.
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