Qantas cancels international flights until October as Australian borders are expected to stay closed until next year

Qantas has cancelled all international flights until late October except for those to New Zealand. The news comes as the Australian government said its border would remain closed into next year to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The airline and subsidiary Jetstar are now boosting domestic flights as travel restrictions within Australia ease. Qantas has seen domestic passenger numbers double to 64,000 this week, compared to last week’s 32,000. The nation’s tourism minister has also encouraged Australians to take their holidays within the country this year. “With Australia’s borders set to remain closed for some time, we have cancelled most international flights until late October,” the airline said in a statement sent to the BBC. “We still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months, with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand,” the statement continued, referring to the Tasman Sea between the two countries, BBC reported.

Australians hoping for an overseas holiday have had their hopes dashed, with the Tourism Minister saying that short-term international visitors will probably not be allowed into Australia until at least next year. Simon Birmingham said the decision to shut the border was one of the main reasons for Australia’s success in suppressing COVID-19 and it would not be lifted for general travel any time soon. “I do sadly think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off,” Senator Birmingham told the National Press Club, ABC News wrote.

Qantas in February reported that the virus could reduce its profit by up to 150 million Australian dollars ($100 million) in the second half of its fiscal year, though that was well before the full scope of the pandemic was realized. Qantas isn’t expected to report earnings for the full year for another two months. The virus also forced Qantas’ only real local competitor, Virgin Australiato collapse into administration earlier this year. The airline founded by billionaire Richard Branson is still working toward finding a buyer. Virgin is still flying during that process, according to CNN.

Australia is unlikely to reopen its border to international travellers until next year but will look to relax entry rules for students and other long-term visitors, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday.  Mr Birmingham said a quarantine rule for returning citizens could be applied to international students and other visitors who plan to stay for a long period of time. ‘We can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely,’ Mr Birmingham said in a speech to the National Press Club. The return of international students will be a boost for universities facing big financial losses with the border closed as international education is Australia’s fourth-largest foreign exchange earner, worth $38 billion a year, as reported by Daily Mail

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