One-on-one with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce

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Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was visibly upbeat during his one-on-one interview at Illuminate with James Kavanagh, Flight Centre Travel Group’s Managing Director Australia. The airline chief was quick to point out Qantas’ plans to increase scheduling and capacity over the next nine months in line with government plans to re-open international and most state borders by Christmas. Alan also highlighted what travellers could expect from the customer experience when they returned to the skies and pointed to the likelihood of ‘lower fares’ circulating as the airline focused on getting operations up and running again.

 

James: What’s happening at Qantas during the next few months?

Alan: “We are planning to get back to 100% of the pre-Covid schedule domestically by January.

“In the first week of November, we’ll progressively return to nearly 15 flights a day [between Sydney and Melbourne], by Christmas get back to around 30-40 flights per day and in the New Year around February, we’ll be pretty close to the pre-Covid schedule.   

“We have already brought forward our London and LA services to start from 1 November and before Christmas, we’ll be scheduling flights to Canada, Singapore, Tokyo, Fiji along with double daily Los Angeles and London services. In the New Year we’ll expand the rest of the network rapidly with all our international aircraft hoped to be back in the air by July next year. Except for the A380s, they will take a little longer.”

James: Do you think it will be a permanent state once we open international borders?

Alan: “The larger states in Australia are now saying they will have to live with the [Covid-19] virus and that we need to open up to get our economy going again. There will still be protections as you know, but that's the way the rest of the world has gone and now are a few months ahead of us. We saw the European market getting back to 70% of pre-Covid travel levels and that is not turning back. The transatlantic is opening up, the American domestic market is back to pre-Covid levels and they are living with it. I think that's the way we are going and hopefully it is a one-way direction.”

James: What are some of the things travellers can expect when they board a Qantas plane again?

Alan: “We will still have some of the protections we put in place [during Covid] that will continue. Obviously, the use of masks is a Federal requirement in all aircraft. We will have the same service that people are used to on-board aircraft and on the ground. On 1 November we will be opening the first-class lounge here in Sydney. We will be opening our 35 lounges domestically and we will be offering access to and opening the international lounges progressively, so all of that is the same.

“It's clear what you get on Qantas and Jetstar and we will continue to deliver all services going forward. There will be those protections with social distancing, hand sanitiser everywhere and you will have to wear masks unless you are drinking or eating.”

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James: What can customers expect from pricing heading into the New Year?

Alan: “Our aim is to get all of our people back to work. We still have nearly 10,000 people on stand down because of the lack of travel domestically. To generate positive cash flow, not make a profit, but generate positive cash flow means we can afford to have lower airfares in the market for people. There may be a period when there will be tighter capacity because markets are opening and we’re reactivating aircraft but that will only be a short-term impact. In the medium to longer term you will see a lot of very attractive airfares out there.

“There is huge interest from people planning their trips for next year… and we have seen Jetstar offering $22 domestic airfares to get people travelling again. You will see more of that as we encourage more people to start travelling on the network again.”

James: Qantas was one of the first companies in Australia to state its position on vaccinations for frontline workers and all your staff. Talk us through this decision.

Alan: “A lot of countries and governments are mandating vaccinations for travel. If you are going to travel internationally, most countries around the world are going to make vaccinations a requirement … and I think with Australia’s domestic borders opening, states are likely to make it a requirement also.

Even if it wasn't a requirement, we have a duty of care to our passengers and to our employees. We did a massive survey with all our employees before we did this [COVID-19vaccine requirement]. We consulted with staff and had 96% of our employees saying they have every intent to get a vaccine.

We have an obligation to our customers, staff and to our communities that we fly to, to ask our employees to do this … and a lot of companies have followed. Virgin Australia has followed, Rex … the entire aviation industry in Australia.”

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