DESPITE facing the toughest challenge in its history, Qantas chief Alan Joyce continues to point to signs of health and vitality for the company down the track, most recently hinting that the airline’s much touted Project Sunrise is still very much on the table.

Joyce made the comments during a Reuters Next conference last month, telling attendees the carrier’s ambition to launch long-haul services from Australia to in-demand destinations like London and New York was alive and well, and could be introduced toward the back end of this year.

“Hopefully, by the end of 2021, we can revisit [Project Sunrise] and look at what is the appropriate time to start,” he said.

“The balance sheet takes priority, but we think you can do that and repair the balance sheet at the same time,” Joyce added.

Qantas put Project Sunrise preparations officially on hold in May last year, pulling the plug on the purchase of 12 Airbus A350-1000s at the last minute to batten down the hatches and deal with the worst of the pandemic.

While sharing some optimistic planning news, Joyce also lamented the business had been knocked back by about three months in its recovery plans due to the latest COVID clusters and subsequent travel restrictions.

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