Qantas and Virgin Australia have both announced capacity cuts for the coming weeks and months, as the country is hit by soaring Covid-19 cases.
Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar now expect domestic capacity for the current quarter to be at around 70 per cent of pre-Covid levels, compared with previous forecasts of 102 per cent.
International capacity had been expected to be around 30 per cent of pre-Covid levels, but this forecast has now fallen to just 20 per cent. The group said that this reduction has been driven by “increased travel restrictions in countries like Japan, Thailand and Indonesia and is mostly impacting Jetstar’s leisure routes”, stressing that other markets including London, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Johannesburg and India “continue to perform well”.
Qantas said that customers will be contacted directly from late January if their booking is impacted by cancellations and offered alternative flights “that in most cases are likely to be a difference of a few hours if travelling domestically”.
“The sudden uptick in Covid cases is having an obvious impact on consumer behaviour across various sectors, including travel, but we know it’s temporary,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
“Thankfully, Australia has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates and the Omicron variant is milder than its predecessors. So, as challenging as this current phase is, we’re optimistic that it is likely to fast track a return to normal.
“People are already looking beyond what’s happening now with early bookings for the Easter holidays in April looking promising for both domestic and international.
“We have the flexibility to add capacity back if demand improves earlier than expected, but 70 per cent still represents a lot of domestic flying and it’s a quantum improvement on the levels we faced only a few months ago.
Meanwhile Reuters reported earlier this week that Virgin Australia is to reduce capacity across its network by around 25 per cent for the rest of January and for February “due to reduced travel demand and staff being required to isolate as Covid-19 case numbers rise in Australia”.
The report states that the carrier will temporarily suspend ten routes, as well as cutting some flight frequencies.
Daily cases of Covid-19 in Australia have soared to over 100,000 in recent days, as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country. Nearly a million of the 1.4 million cases detected since the start of the pandemic have been reported in the last two weeks.