Qantas is adding more than ten extra flights between London and Sydney due to a surge in Australians seeking to fly home by Christmas as the country gradually reopens its borders.
The airline is also returning its fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos into service earlier than planned after the aircraft were originally expected to remain in long term storage in the Californian desert until the end of 2023.
The faster ramp up follows the federal and New South Wales governments confirming that international borders would reopen from November 1 and NSW authorities removing quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals – which significantly increases travel demand.
The group expects all Australian-based staff to be able to return to work in early December, including around 6,000 linked to international flying.
Many international crew have been stood down since the start of the pandemic 18 months ago due to extended border closures.
“Combined with operational and corporate employees already working, the group’s 22,000 employees are able to return to work in December, which wasn’t expected to happen until June 2022,” Qantas said as it geared up for accelerated border reopening.
The carrier is to resume flights between Sydney and Delhi for the first time in almost a decade and is to reintroduce services to Singapore, Bangkok, Phuket, Johannesburg and Fiji ahead of schedule.
The plans are in addition to routes already on sale from Sydney to London and Los Angeles.
“Bookings on these routes have been extremely strong, with more than ten additional return services added between Sydney and London due to demand from Australians coming home in time for Christmas,” the airline said.
Flights to Honolulu, Vancouver, Tokyo and New Zealand are due to restart from mid-December, with other destinations to resuming in the new year.
These initial flights are limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents in line with Australian government requirements.
Qantas announced in August that five A380s with upgraded cabins would return from July 2022 to operate Los Angeles and London flights.
The date is being brought forward a further three months, with two A380s to serve Los Angeles from April 2022. One aircraft could arrive by the end of this year to assist with crew training ahead of its return to service.
A further three A380s will return to service from mid-November 2022 with the remaining five expected to return to service by early 2024.
Qantas is also looking to bring forward delivery of three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, currently in storage with Boeing, several months earlier than planned as demand increases.
The airline reported that frequent flyers have also been booking seats in record numbers, with the largest number of points used on reward seats for a single day in the airline’s history occurring on Tuesday, with more than 500,000 points redeemed.
Frequent flyers can use their points to book one of millions of seats across Qantas, Jetstar and partner airlines as borders open.
Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said: “Australians rolling up their sleeves means our planes and our people are getting back to work much earlier than we expected.
“This is the best news we’ve had in almost two years and it will make a massive difference to thousands of our people who finally get to fly again.
“We know that Australians are keen to get overseas and see friends and family or have a long awaited holiday, so bringing forward the restart of flights to these popular international destinations will give customers even more options to travel this [southern hemisphere] summer.
“We’ve said for months that the key factor in ramping up international flying would be the quarantine requirement. The decision by the NSW Government to join many cities from around the world by removing quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers means we’re able to add these flights from Sydney much earlier than we would have otherwise.
“We hope that as vaccination rates in other states and territories increase, we’ll be able to restart more international flights out of their capital cities. In the meantime, Sydney is our gateway to the rest of the world.”
He added: “While these flights will initially be for Australians and their families, we expect tourists from Singapore, South Africa and India to take advantage once borders reopen to international visitors, which is great news for the industry.
“Our customers and crew love flying on our flagship A380s, so news that they are will be back flying to Los Angeles again from April next year will be very welcome.”