Following a “sudden and significant drop” in travel demand amid the coronavirus outbreak, Qantas has announced almost a quarter of international flights will be cut and changes to domestic routes for the next six months.
Almost a quarter of international Qantas flights will be impacted until mid-September, as fewer people are expected to fly, with changes to international and domestic Qantas and Jetstar flights expected within the next week.
While Qantas and Jetstar will have fewer flights to the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, services to Asia will be impacted the most.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the Qantas Group anticipated lower demand in the coming months.
“In the past fortnight we’ve seen a sharp drop in bookings on our international network as the global coronavirus spread continues,” Mr Joyce said in a statement.
“We expect lower demand to continue for the next several months, so rather than taking a piecemeal approach we’re cutting capacity out to mid-September.
“This improves our ability to reduce costs as well as giving more certainty to the market, customers and our people.”
The Qantas Group said customers flying internationally will be offered an alternative route, either via a capital city, partner airline or on a different day, however domestic flights are expected the experience minimal disruption.
Not only will the frequency of services be reduced, but smaller aircrafts will be used, with only two Airbus A830s, the airlines biggest aircraft, in operation.
Eight A380s will be grounded until mid-September and two A380s are scheduled to be undergo maintenance.
Qantas also said in a media release the company would make “best use” of this time and bring forward maintenance work.
The announcement will also impact the routes of some flights. The Sydney-Singapore-London service will be temporarily rerouted to become a Sydney-Perth-London, in response to “strong customer demand” for the direct Perth to London service.
The new Brisbane to Chicago route which was slated to commence flights from April 15 will be suspended until mid-September.
Domestic flights across both Qantas and Jetstar services will be reduced until September by five per cent.
Jetstar, which falls under the Qantas Group umbrella will make significant cuts to international services.
Flights from Australia to Bangkok have been suspended and Jetstar has reduced flights to Vietnam and Japan by “almost half”.
This comes a week after the daily Seoul-bound flight from the Gold Coast was suspended.
“In total, this is the equivalent of grounding 38 Qantas and Jetstar aircraft across the international and domestic network,” the Qantas Group said in a media statement.
However, in the statement, Mr Joyce said the group retains the “flexibility” to further cut services or reinstate them as the situation develops.
Mr Joyce also acknowledged the reduction in fights also means there is less work for Qantas employees, but said the company is hoping to “avoid job losses wherever possible”.
“We’re asking our people to use their paid leave and, if they can, consider taking some unpaid leave given we’re flying a lot less,” he said.
“It’s hard to predict how long this situation will last, which is why we’re moving now to make sure we remain well positioned. But we know it will pass, and we’ll be well positioned to take advantage of opportunities when it does.”
Italy under total lockdown and schools barred from travelling
The announcement to service changes comes just after it was announced all of Italy’s 60 million people are under lockdown.
More than 460 deaths have been confirmed in Italy, which is the highest number behind China.
In NSW and Victoria, three schools in have been shut on Tuesday following students testing positive for COVID-19.
“School closures, I think, will become the norm as we go ahead, but we are doing everything we can to keep our children safe,” Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan told Nine's Today program.
More than 80 people have tested positive for the virus in Australia, NSW’s confirmed cases making up more than half of that number.
Globally there have been more than 110,000 cases and more than 3800 deaths.
On Tuesday, Western Australia announced a travel ban on all public, private and Catholic schools as the coronavirus spreads throughout North America.
All schools in WA will be banned from travelled to the US, and Canada, given the two nations share a boarder.
This comes after the disease continues to spread across the US.
New Zealand is now the only country WA school groups may be able to travel to.
“We have a duty of care to school students and staff, with the aim of reducing the possibility of exposure to the coronavirus while overseas,” Education Minister Sue Ellery said, according to AAP.
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