By Michael Mangano
Qantas Embarks on New Routes
Qantas has been making headlines again this week with its expanding domestic and international routes, notably a direct Melbourne to Dallas Fort Worth – the first of its kind – and Darwin to Dili, Timor-Leste. It comes as post-lockdown aviation momentum picks up, with travelers headed to Australia no longer needing a negative covid-19 test result before departure after April 17, 2022.
The new routes, plus increased Melbourne-LAX flights, mean Qantas Airbus A380s will be making a return to Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, which has been subject to the heaviest lockdowns in Australia throughout the pandemic. Additionally, the carrier will be flying up to five weekly Darwin-Dili return flights from July this year, with its network partner Alliance Airlines, making the route Qantas’ first international Embraer E190 flight.
Qantas will increase its weekly Melbourne-LAX return flights from four to eight, utilizing its fleet of 787 Dreamliners, aiming for the A380’s return in December for the route, while four weekly return Melbourne-DFW flights will also use the Dreamliner. The new route to DFW will begin in December 2022.
During the downtime of Australia’s COVID lockdown, Qantas has been upgrading its A380 cabins, with Qantas Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully stating “we know that our customers have missed the Qantas A380 travel experience as much as our team has missed being able to provide it for them.”
The upgrades include increased premium economy seating – from 35 to 60 – with modernized seating and galleys, booth-style seating and a new signature Australian menu for the upper deck, including a selection of Australian fine wine.
Australia’s Post-COVID Aviation Recovery
Qantas has long been vocal for Australia to open its international borders, an opposing view to state and federal governments during the peak of the pandemic. As such, Australia’s tourism industry took a massive hit, with a reduction of 67.7% of commercial flights in Australia between 2019 and 2020. The negative impact resulted in government ‘Job Keeper’ funding in an attempt to keep tourism workers financially afloat, including airline staff.
In a Senate Committee report on the future of Australia’s aviation sector, the committee recommended the Australian Government “leverages its procurement processes and spending within the aviation sector to protect and lift standards, promote fair wages, conditions and job security, and ensure the effective operation of an aviation industry in the national interest.” The recommendation comes with specific mention of disputes between Qantas and aviation unions, the latter being criticized for using the inquiry to promote certain agendas, which “wasted” the time of inquiry.
The road ahead is turbulent, with allegations of Qantas withholding refunds from customers for extended periods of time after huge losses during the pandemic, and multiple airlines reducing agent commissions in an attempt to reduce costs and gain business,
The news of increased Qantas activity is welcome, however, further bringing back on board much staff who were unable to work during the peak of the Australian COVID lockdowns, with Melbourne itself being described as ‘the most locked-down city’ with 263 total days in lockdown.