Will international travel in 2021 recommence? It was a devastating 2020 for the airline’s industry across the globe and the airlines in Australia were no exception to it with Qantas posting a record loss of AUD1.47 billion (USD1.17 billion).
But since vaccination has begun in lots of countries around the world and coronavirus cases are growing in Europe, the US, India and South America whilst in Australia, we are doing well with a zero-rate local transmission in all states, which is due to the strict closure of our international borders and the good tracing system implemented by the state governments.
Our chief medical officer has said s few times to the media that international travel will not restart until early 2022. However, the controversial fact looks more positive than that for international travel to commence sooner, beginning with the New Zealand two-way bubble which starts on 18 April and I am pretty optimistic that toward the end of 2021 there will be more travel bubble in place and others that will impose the conditions that travellers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Vaccine rollout began in Australia with phase 1A the last week of February and after one month on 23 March, phase 1B has just commenced which aims to have 6 million Australians vaccinated by the end of the phase.
Qantas has already announced that will not resume international services before October this year, however, services may be a far cry from pre-pandemic routes, leave flight New York, Santiago and Osaka not directly operated, instead of using their partner’s airlines to reach the destinations. However full capacity is not expected to recover on the operated routes until 2024.
Domestically Qantas aims to resume 1200 flights between capital cities in Australia by Christmas, but it’s not yet certain whether the covid 19 vaccination will be made mandatory before embarking on one of those journeys.
Qantas had to cut back unintentionally 30% of their workforce with many being put on job keeper government scheme, which is finishing today after which the future for the staff on job keeper is uncertain. However, there is the bright perspective of advancement with the vaccination and potential travel bubbles with countries like New Zealand, Singapore, Pacific Islands, and some other Asian countries that may start before the end of this year, there is a good possibility that most of their staff will recommence their fulltime position soon.
So, the big open question remains “will international travel commence in 2021?” I think the answer is probably no, except for a few tightly managed travel bubbles, however, for the rest of the world, restrictions on travel will not be lifted before the end of the year.
Even after 75% of the population is fully vaccinated the re-start will be slow and trust in international travel will take years to rehabilitate.