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WA Border situation "Deeply concerning," says Alan Joyce as airline cancels flights

The Qantas Group has today announced changes to its flight capacity in response to WA state premier Mark McGowan's backflip on reopening Western Australia’s domestic and international borders.

The Qantas Group has today announced changes to its flight capacity in response to WA state premier Mark McGowan’s backflip on reopening Western Australia’s domestic and international borders.

Domestically, Qantas and Jetstar said that they had more than 20,000 people booked to arrive in Perth in the first week that WA borders were scheduled to open from February 5.

The Qantas Group says that the ramp-up of flying that was planned will now be cancelled through to the end of April 2022, which can be adjusted forward or back depending on further clarity on when WA’s border will ultimately open.

The airline says these cancellations represent thousands of flights and approximately 10 per cent of Qantas Group domestic capacity.

Though at a fraction of its pre-COVID levels, Qantas says it will maintain core connections between Perth and the rest of Australia, with up to 15 passenger flights per week from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Darwin, supporting essential personnel and freight.

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Extending the Darwin to London route could now be on the cards

Speaking about the Group’s latest setback, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said, “The border situation in WA is deeply concerning. February 5 was supposedly ‘locked in’ to give certainty. Tens of thousands of people booked travel on that basis and we brought a lot of our people back to work on that basis. Removing that certainty with no new timeline for when the border will reopen is a real blow not just for travel but for Australia as a whole.

“Other states have forged ahead despite the challenges that Omicron presented because they know this virus isn’t going away. The rest of the country is focused on getting through this but WA is still playing for time, despite people doing the right thing and getting vaccinated. The question is what it will take for them to open. It’s very hard, as a business, to deal with this level of uncertainty,” he said.

Qantas is also reviewing the planned restart of its Perth-London route, which was to resume from late March 2022 in time for the northern summer schedule.

A decision is expected in the next few weeks given the lead times involved and Qantas says it is in discussions with the Northern Territory Government about extending the operation of the alternative Darwin-London route.

Qantas’ direct Perth-Rome flight remains due to start in late June 2022, pending a decision on border settings.

Qantas has released a statement to the ASX to summarise the domestic capacity changes.