By BRUCE Piper

Having repeatedly predicted a return to the international skies since the start of the pandemic, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce insists that the latest plan – for a resumption by mid-December – is definitely achievable.

Joyce laid out the forecast last month as he unveiled another huge annual loss for the carrier, saying the aim was to recommence overseas flights to COVID-safe destinations “in line with vaccination rates”.

Initial destinations could include Singapore, the USA, Japan, Fiji, Canada and the UK, while much of the remainder of the network would return by April 2022, he prognosticated.

While the travel industry has welcomed his optimism, and the accompanying impetus for travel-hungry Aussies to get vaccinated, there is also much skepticism about whether it will be third time lucky for QF’s international restart aspirations.

Some have pointed to previous Qantas restart plans – including initially opening up the entire long-haul network for sale in January this year, for flights scheduled from 1 July.

Then that was pushed back to 31 October, based on initial expectations about the rate of vaccinations – and now the Delta outbreak has put paid to that, along with bursting the trans-Tasman bubble for the foreseeable future.

The response from many travelBulletin readers showed just how badly the industry’s relationship with Qantas has been damaged over the last few years, with a decided lack of trust in anything the airline says.

Earlier this year, speaking about one of the earlier planned restarts, QF Chief Customer Officer, Stephanie Tully, talked up the prospects – but then after some prodding admitted the airline will only resume flights if they can operate at full capacity.

That would mean no flight caps – and who in their right mind thinks some of Australia’s recalcitrant state leaders will agree to that by December?

Critics have also noted that existing hotel quarantine contracts have already been extended out to April 2022 – while Qantas is also offering just date changes, not refunds, on all those newly available flights it has now listed for sale.

Hopefully the Irishman knows something we don’t – but perhaps he’s also a little more focused on keeping the Qantas share price aloft, rather than the airline’s international fleet.

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