MIAMI – Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas (QF) has been known to react extremely early, and with today’s news, that point has been driven home. In the past few days, QF has removed inventory on all international flights [aside from New Zealand] through March 28, 2021.

While the flights have not yet been formally canceled, a removal of inventory is almost always followed by a cancelation. This was foreshadowed weeks ago when QF CEO Alan Joyce expressed his intent to do just that.

Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce

These cancelations will serve as a framework for other airlines as they move into the fall season. For most airlines, returning to Australia is an essential but dangerous task. Re-entering too soon or too late can result in massive PR nightmares.

Currently, Airlines must make decisions months in advance based on data that will be irrelevant in a week. The constant rise and fall of case numbers mean an airline’s best bet is to make an educated guess and hope it works.

Australia is favoring a slow recovery and the airlines must gauge when their time has come. For QF, it does not believe it is any time soon.

Qantas Airbus A380-842 reg. VH-OKG taking off from Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD). Photo: Federico Pronesti – @fede.spotter.fco

Careful Moves

On June 24, the Qantas Group announced a three-year plan to aid in its recovery from the fallout of the pandemic to create a structure for profitability, shareholder value, and job preservation.

Qantas’ initial plan was to rightsize the workforce, fleet, and other costs according to projections of demand.

Then, on July 7, QF sent the first of 12 Airbus A380 to the Victorville airlines graveyard in Southern California, parking its A380 fleet while its international flying is on hiatus.

Finally, on July 9, the Australian airline bid farewell to its Jumbojet, thus beginning the process of retiring the last of the 747-400 series aircraft in its fleet.