Qantas has resumed selling international tickets for flights on or after July 1, 2021 and also altered flight crews that re-training will be begin soon. The move may be premature, but also marks a strategic chess move in the game of when to re-open borders and resume flights.
Qantas Will Hold Australian Government Accountable
Qantas took all of us by surprise when it announced international flights would resume in July and immediately began selling tickets. Were they aware of something we were not? What prompted this announcement even as the pandemic continues to rage around the world?
While the news was greeted with optimism, the Australian government tempered expectations almost immediately. Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack noted:
International borders will be opened when international arrivals do not pose a risk to Australians.
Decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian Government.
The Australian Government is working on travel arrangements with countries, such as New Zealand, that have low community infections.
Operations and ticket sales on particular routes are commercial decisions for airlines.
Note that the government did not refute anything Qantas has said or condemn it for selling tickets prematurely. It simply stated that it would be the one to make the final decision.
As View from the Wing notes, it’s not like Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is somehow out of the loop. Quite the contrary, he is one of the most well-connected men in Australia. Thus, it is not illogical to conclude that this decision was not made on a whim. Indeed, it likely came after consultation with health and other government officials, even if via backchannels.
By most accounts, Australia has done a fantastic job in containing the spread of coronavirus. This has come at great cost to freedom of movement, but there is no denying that the strict measures in place have prevented the kind of catastrophe that the USA is now experiencing.
Nevertheless, while finding the right balance is not for me to dictate or even suggest, Qantas is a key stakeholder and has a legitimate and vested interest in trying to encourage a cautious government to move a bit faster.
After all, if the vaccine proves effective and is widely distributed by mid-year, the safety downside to international travel diminishes greatly. Qantas is not wrong to ensure that it can resume international operations at the earliest possible safest moment.
Qantas may have “jumped the gun” when it comes to resuming international ticket sales, but it was a calculated move that seeks to move the Australian government from its overtly cautious position to one that accommodates international travel a bit earlier than originally planned. Every additional day without travel is revenue lost.