Qantas Airways Ltd. canceled most international flights until late October after the government said Australia’s borders are likely to remain closed until next year. The extended cancellation increases financial pressure on the airline, which is slowly adding back domestic services but has grounded dozens of aircraft and furloughed most of its employees. International flights were previously on hold until the end of July.
The prolonged flight ban doesn’t apply to services between Australia and New Zealand, a Qantas spokesman said Thursday. The two countries have largely suppressed their coronavirus outbreaks and are working to create a trans-Tasman corridor to kick-start travel and tourism.
Australia’s confirmed Covid-19 cases total 7,388, with 102 deaths. Globally, cases have risen above 8.3 million and almost 450,000 people have died.
Australia is keeping its borders essentially closed to mass-market travel. If lengthier entry bans are replicated by other nations, it would deepen the blow to an airline industry already forecast to lose more than $84 billion in 2020.
Qantas last month raised an additional A$550 million ($379 million) to ride out a near-halt in passenger revenue and said it had enough liquidity to hold on until December 2021.
The carrier’s shares fell more than 3% Thursday morning.
Speaking on local radio on Wednesday, Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “essential business travel” was open to some Australians, as long as they quarantined when they returned home.
But he said: “I can’t honestly see international travel more generally, people coming from all over the world to Australia again, anytime soon.”
Simon Birmingham, Australia’s minister for trade and tourism, said Wednesday that broad tourist-related travel in and out of Australia probably won’t return until 2021.
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