Qantas wants further “ad hoc” border closures ruled out as Australia’s vaccine program rolls out, warning of further redundancies if uncertainty continues.
The next four to eight weeks are “critical” for the airline sector, senior officials have told a parliamentary inquiry.
“It’s the volatility and never knowing,” transport department deputy secretary Christine Dacey said on Thursday at a Senate hearing into the future of Australia’s aviation sector post-COVID-19.
“Until we get an enduring domestic bubble I think this sector is in real strife.”
What’s going on?
Qantas told the two-day hearing on Wednesday that it was in daily contact with the government, as airlines eye the end of generous aviation support and no more JobKeeper payments from March 28.
“It’s been a very sad year,” said Qantas domestic and international chief executive Andrew David.
“If we saw state borders close again the impact is going to be huge.”
Quizzed about its expectation for 40 to 50 per cent of international business to return by November, Qantas said this is based on assumptions about the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines here and overseas.
But the airline doesn’t expect to be back to pre-COVID levels until 2024, seeing no service for its A380s until the end of 2023.
Qantas is calling for the government to extend and enhance all aviation support packages at least until international borders reopen, but didn’t argue for the JobKeeper support payment to be extended.
Support package needed
International Transport Workers’ Federation spokesman Scott McDine called for an “AviationKeeper” wage subsidy to replace JobKeeper, which ends on March 31, and shared data about 18 countries doing more than Australia to support the industry’s workforce.
“You’ve got to have a workforce that can respond post-pandemic,” Mr McDine said.
He agreed border closures had decimated once-lucrative routes in Australia and airlines faced an uncertain policy environment.
Regional airline Rex is also lobbying for an extension of the federal Regional Airline Network Support program beyond its March 28 snapback as well as some help to keep staff in place with JobKeeper set to finish.
“We understand it’s not going to be extended in its current form but we hope there’ll be some form of assistance to keep airline crews available,”
Rex deputy chair John Sharp
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says measures are being considered for a range of industries, including the aviation sector.
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