Australian airline Qantas hopes to resume international flights at the end of October as the country should have vaccinated most of its population by then.

Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce made the prediction as he unveiled a half-year underlying loss before tax of just over A$1 billion (£564 million) for the six months to the end of December 2020.

The airline is planning to restart flights to 22 of its 25 pre-Covid international destinations including London, Los Angeles, Singapore and Johannesburg from October 31, 2021.

It won’t initially resume direct flights to New York, Santiago and Osaka, but remains committed to flying to these destinations.

Joyce said: “We’re now planning for international travel to restart at the end of October this year, in line with the date for Australia’s vaccine rollout to be effectively complete.

“We’re still targeting July for a material increase in New Zealand flights.

“We’re in close consultation with government, and if things change, so will our dates.

“But with the vaccine rollout already under way, we’re on the right track.”

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The carrier had hoped to resume international flights beyond New Zealand in July 2021 but the surge in Covid cases and new variants of the virus have forced the delay.

Australia’s vaccination programme began in the state of New South Wales on Monday.

The country has been pursuing a “zero-Covid” policy during the pandemic with strict border controls, and there had been suggestions that international travel might not resume until 2022.

Qantas is assessing the use of digital health pass apps and has been trialling CommonPass and Iata Travel Pass smartphone apps on the airline’s international repatriation flights.

Commenting on the A$1 billion loss, Joyce said: “These figures are stark, but they won’t come as a surprise.

The border closures meant Qantas lost virtually all of its international flying and 70% of its domestic flying, resulting in a loss of three-quarters of its revenue – about A$7 billion.

Joyce also spoke of the impact of the crisis on Qantas’ staff.

“At least 8,500 people will lose their job at the national carrier because of Covid,” he said.

“Another 7,500 will be stood down until international travel recovers.”