DALLAS – As a result of the new omicron COVID-19 strain, Qantas (QF) will cancel nearly a third of its domestic and international flights in March.

In an aftermarket ASX release, QF said it would decrease domestic capacity from 102% of pre-COVID-19 levels to 70% until April, following the lead set by rival Virgin Australia (VS) earlier this week.

International travel will be reduced from 30% to 20% of pre-virus levels. Travel restrictions in Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia, which primarily affected LCC spinoff Jetstar, caused the decline, according to the flag carrier.

“Other markets – such as London, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Johannesburg, and India – continue to perform well,” the carrier said.

The news comes as Australia reports today more than 140,000 new cases of COVID-19 across the country.

Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQH – Photo: Andrew Henderson/Airways

Comments from Qantas CEO

Given Australia’s world-leading vaccination rates and the milder nature of the now-rampant omicron COVID-19 variant, Chief Executive Alan Joyce underlined that these adjustments were temporary and that the airline had made no changes to its capacity for the next quarter.

“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,” Mr. Joyce said.

“We have the flexibility to add capacity back if demand improves earlier than expected, but 70% still represents a lot of domestic flying, and it’s a quantum improvement on the levels we faced only a few months ago.

“Our focus on cash positive flying remains, notwithstanding some of the costs that we’ll have to absorb from this sudden drop in demand.”

Jetstar VH-VGV Airbus A320-232. Photo: Noah Pitkin/Airways

H1 2022 Financial Outlook

In the first half of the 2022 financial year, QF expects to lose A$250m to A$300m in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. That loss is likely to exceed A$1.1bn if non-cash depreciation and amortization costs are factored in.

Nonetheless, according to afr.com, an A$804m windfall from the sale of extra idle property around its Sydney Mascot headquarters helped repair its balance sheet. QF shares fell 2.4% to A$4.99 on Thursday.

As for its staff, according to ausrtralianaviation.com.au, QF stated that despite the disruptions, 100% of workers across QF mainline and Jetstar (JQ) will remain on duty to account for absences due to COVID instances and employee isolation.

Qantas Airways Limited is the flag carrier of Australia and its largest airline by fleet size, international flights and international destinations. It is the world’s third-oldest airline still in operation, having been founded in November 1920; it began international passenger flights in May 1935.

Featured image: Qantas VH-ZNE Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Johann Heske/Airways