Qantas has cancelled dozens of trans-Tasman flights scheduled to operate over the next three months, including almost all Gold Coast-Auckland flights until July, due to a lack of demand.
Thousands of Qantas customers with upcoming bookings, including many AFF members, have received flight change notifications in recent days. Some flights have been cancelled, while others have been retimed to improve the number of same-day connections available on both sides of the Tasman.
Over recent weeks, many Qantas trans-Tasman flights that had been scheduled as Airbus A330 services have also been “downgraded” to smaller Boeing 737-800 aircraft which lack lie-flat Business class seats. This includes many Sydney-Christchurch flights.
Since the trans-Tasman travel bubble launched on 19 April 2021, Queenstown has been a very popular destination for Australians. In fact, Qantas is now operating 170% of its pre-COVID capacity between Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Queenstown. But bookings on other routes such as Gold Coast-Auckland, Brisbane-Auckland and Sydney-Christchurch have fallen short of expectations.
In total, Qantas and Jetstar are currently operating about 60% of pre-COVID capacity across the Tasman. But the airlines expect this to gradually increase as confidence in the travel bubble grows.
Unfortunately, confidence in the travel bubble has taken another hit this week with the New Zealand government pausing flights between Victoria and New Zealand until at least Friday due to new COVID-19 cases found in Melbourne. The recent changes to Qantas flight schedules to New Zealand happened before this recent outbreak.
Qantas says that customers holding existing bookings impacted by the schedule changes will be contacted and offered a range of options. These could include being rebooked onto a same-day direct Qantas or Jetstar flight if possible, as well as a full refund or travel credit.
But one AFF member who was booked on one of the cancelled Qantas Gold Coast-Auckland services was rebooked via Sydney with the domestic connection on Jetstar. This person wasn’t happy about this because they will be travelling with a baby. Many AFF members also say they’ve struggled to contact the call centre to rebook their flights.
The Gold Coast-Auckland route only launched a month ago, and is Qantas’ first ever international service from the Gold Coast. But all flights on the route between now and the July school holidays, except between 3-7 June, have already been axed.
With Qantas still set to launch another new trans-Tasman route next month, with direct flights from Cairns to Auckland, the airline is hoping more New Zealanders will want to fly to Queensland during winter.
“Since the two-way trans-Tasman bubble opened last month, bookings have generally been stronger out of Australia than New Zealand. We’re seeing that Kiwis need a bit of encouragement,” a Qantas spokesperson told Australian Frequent Flyer.
“We’re confident that as we get closer to winter, the warmer climate of Queensland will lure more travellers from New Zealand to visit the Gold Coast for a holiday.
“We’re working closely with our tourism and airport partners to promote everything the Gold Coast has to offer to ensure this route is a success.”
So, why aren’t more New Zealanders flying across the ditch? One explanation could be a general concern about getting stuck on the other side of the bubble if it bursts. Or perhaps many of the Kiwis travelling to Australia aren’t flying with Qantas because they’re using up flight credits they got stuck with after Air New Zealand refused to refund tickets cancelled due to COVID-19.
It’s perhaps also worth noting that New Zealanders can also now travel quarantine-free to Rarotonga after New Zealand launched its second travel bubble with the Cook Islands last week. This gives sun-seeking New Zealanders an alternative to Queensland.