Qantas Airways may resume international flights to the U.S., UK, and Japan by the end of the year.
The Australian airline announced Thursday that it has begun preparations to resume international flights by Dec. 2021 in coordination with Australia’s planned phased reopening of international borders.
The decision remains contingent upon Australia’s vaccine rollout through the remainder of the year. Before Australia’s international borders can reopen, the country needs to have at least 80% of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Currently, about 30% of the population is currently fully vaccinated.
As the country imports more doses of the vaccine, forecasts show that 80% of the country could be vaccinated by the end of the year, Reuters reported.
“We can adjust our plans if the circumstances change, which we’ve already had to do several times during this pandemic,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement. “Some people might say we’re being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we’re ready.”
The largest destinations that Qantas will focus on first include North America, the UK, Singapore, and Japan. The destinations are those with both high demand and low COVID-19 risk. By mid-2022, Qantas hopes to have five A380 aircraft operating routes from Australia to Los Angeles and London.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen, including training for our people and carefully bringing aircraft back into service,” Joyce added. “We’re also working to integrate the IATA travel pass into our systems to help our customers prove their vaccine status and cross borders.”
Qantas shut down international operations in March 2020 and its aircraft have not left Australia since.
Looking further down the line, Qantas could resume flights to other international destinations like Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City, and Johannesburg by April 2022.