A few weeks ago, Qantas cancelled almost all of its international flights until 24 October 2020. These cancellations were quietly extended yesterday by another five months, until the end of March 2021.
The only exception is flights between Australia and New Zealand, which are currently scheduled to resume on 17 August 2020. However, the cancellation of flights to New Zealand will almost certainly be extended as well if a “trans-Tasman bubble” is not announced soon.
At this stage, there is no planned start date for the resumption of unrestricted travel between Australia & New Zealand. The latest outbreak in Melbourne is likely to delay a decision, although we could eventually see air corridors formed between New Zealand and “safe” Australian states if the situation in Victoria does not improve.
Meanwhile, Qantas’ long-haul flights have now been cancelled for the entire IATA northern winter scheduling period, which runs from late October until late March. Flights are now scheduled to resume on 28 March 2021, but this is really just an arbitrary date marking the beginning of the 2021 northern summer period. If Australia’s international borders have not opened by then, the cancellations could eventually be pushed back even further.
At the same time, there is a possibility for Qantas to add flights back to its schedule if the situation improves. It will most likely depend on when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available and when governments around the world lift travel restrictions.
While sad news – particularly for the many Qantas staff that currently face being stood down for an extended period – these cancellations were inevitable. As recently as this week, Qantas had publicly said that it had not yet made a decision to cancel flights beyond October. But realistically, in the current circumstances, it was never likely that most of the Qantas international flights scheduled between October 2020 and March 2021 would fly. This decision at least now gives customers more certainty, and allows passengers with affected bookings to request a refund.
If you’re booked on an affected flight, your booking may not have been cancelled yet. But Qantas is no longer selling any new tickets on these flights, and will get around to cancelling your ticket at some point in the near future. When this happens, Qantas will probably convert your booking to a flight credit. If you’d prefer a refund, you will be entitled to request this by calling Qantas.
Perhaps Qantas also made the decision now to cancel international flights until March 2021 as it is currently lobbying the federal government to extend JobKeeper payments for aviation workers. This could strengthen the case for needing government assistance.
Last month, Qantas announced that it would axe 6,000 jobs and extend the stand downs of a further 15,000 workers.
Qantas has not operated regularly scheduled international flights since late March 2020. The limited repatriation charter flights it was operating for the federal government ended in June.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: International flights cancelled until March 2021?
Update: Shortly after this article was published, Qantas extended its trans-Tasman flight cancellations until 31 August 2020.