The Qantas Group will temporarily ground more than 150 aircraft and cancel all scheduled international flights from the end of March 2020. Qantas and Jetstar will also cut around 60% of domestic flights in response to sharply falling demand for air travel.
International Qantas flights will remain grounded until at least the end of May 2020, but this is likely to be extended.
The new capacity reductions are a significant increase over the cuts already announced just last week. They come just days after the Australian government mandated 14 days of self-quarantine for all passengers arriving in Australia and advised against all unnecessary international travel.
Qantas will ground all Airbus A380, Boeing 787-9 and Boeing 747 aircraft during this period. It is very likely that the remaining Boeing 747s in the Qantas fleet won’t return to service, and will be retired within weeks.
The full list of Qantas and Jetstar domestic route cuts was revealed yesterday. Key domestic routes like Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane and Melbourne-Perth will remain, but frequencies will reduced. Dozens of other Qantas and Jetstar domestic routes will be cancelled, such as Perth-Canberra, Melbourne-Darwin and Brisbane-Alice Springs.
Qantas says that it will maintain its role as the national carrier of transporting people and goods on critical routes, and will work with the Federal Government to continue some strategic links.
Qantas’ freighter fleet will continue to be fully utilised, and Qantas will also use some domestic passenger aircraft to transport freight.
Virgin Australia will also suspend all international flights from the end of March until at least mid-June 2020.
Impact on Qantas staff
Qantas acknowledges that the impact of these changes will be “felt across the entire workforce of 30,000 people”. Some contractors have already been terminated, and around two thirds of the Qantas Group’s permanent employees will be temporarily stood down with paid or unpaid leave.
“The efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
“We’re in a strong financial position right now, but our wages bill is more than $4 billion a year. With the huge drop in revenue we’re facing, we have to make difficult decisions to guarantee the future of the national carrier.
“Most of our people will be using various types of paid leave during this time, and we’ll have a number of support options in place. We’re also talking to our partners like Woolworths about temporary job opportunities for our people.”
Qantas passengers with existing bookings for travel until the end of May can already change their flights or cancel for a credit voucher without penalty. If you’re booked on an international flight that has been cancelled, Qantas will automatically issue you with a credit voucher for future use. Qantas has not specifically said that it will offer refunds to affected customers, but it’s difficult to see how the airline could deny a refund under Australian Consumer Law if they aren’t providing the service that’s been paid for.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Latest major Coronavirus cutbacks at QF – international and domestic slashed