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"Travel demand and confidence levels are high" – Alan Joyce, CEO Qantas

The Qantas Group held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) this morning, remotely for the second year running, with shareholders tuning in from around the world to hear from CEO Alan Joyce and Chairman Richard Goyer on the latest forecast for The Qantas Group's transformation plans.

The Qantas Group held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) this morning, remotely for the second year running, with shareholders tuning in from around the world to hear from CEO Alan Joyce and Chairman Richard Goyer on the latest forecast for The Qantas Group’s transformation plans.

Both Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce and Group Chairman Richard Goyder shared their remarks in the AGM outlining the challenges of the last twenty months, the current state of play and the forward outlook for the Group.

Kicking off the meeting, Mr Goyder was quick to remind investors that the Group had faced another very difficult year due to COVID saying that International borders were closed for all of FY21 and “there were only about 30 days where we didn’t face some kind of domestic travel restriction.”

That had meant that total passenger numbers were down by over 70 per cent compared with pre-COVID levels, with the Group posting a statutory loss before tax of $2.35 billion for the 2021 financial year – which followed a loss of $2.7 billion the year before.

“In total, it’s likely COVID will have cost us more than $20 billion in revenue by the end of this calendar year. It’s a staggering number – and it’s remarkable that the business has managed to deal with this as well as it has,” he said.

However, Mr Goyder was optimistic, saying, “what’s key for shareholders to know is that Qantas is a structurally different company coming out of the pandemic than we were going in. And that’s important because it means we’re well-placed to recover faster.”

Getting back in the air at home and internationally

Heralding Qantas’ first International flights resuming this week from Sydney to London and Los Angeles on Monday, November 1, Group CEO Alan Joyce began his address by saying he was glad to say that the reopening of the world is approaching quickly.

“Earlier this year, when we announced our plans to restart international flights in December, it seemed too optimistic to some. But because Australians have come out in droves to be vaccinated, it’s happening faster than any of us expected,” said Mr Joyce.

“Australia is on track to have one of the highest vaccine rates of any country in the world, and that gives us a lot of reassurance that we can open safely and stay open. There will still be challenges – but we are investing in the restart because we have every confidence that the only way is forward.

“One of those challenges is a patchwork of entry conditions nationwide. Each time borders closed over the past 18 months, different states had different rules. Unfortunately, we’re seeing the same thing as we reopen.

“That is frustrating for vaccinated travellers who would reasonably expect they can move freely and easily. Hopefully, these conditions – particularly PCR testing at every turn – is dispensed with as Australia becomes more confident living with COVID. Surely that’s something we’ve all earned.”

Qantas also announced today that it will expand its domestic network with the two new routes. QantasLink will begin flights between Adelaide and Newcastle, as well as Wagga Wagga and Brisbane from early next year.

Demand high, travel confidence high

The first International flight lands from Los Angeles on November 1

So far, said Mr Joyce, the signs were good with “travel demand and confidence levels high.”

“Qantas has taken close to half a million domestic bookings in the past two weeks, compared with around twenty thousand in a two week period in August.

“Bookings to South Australia have increased more than sixfold since the SA Premier confirmed their reopening plan. Bookings to Brisbane, Gold Coast and Cairns are up 10 fold in the past two weeks.

“Jetstar’s recent international sale saw 75,000 seats sold in 72 hours.

“Demand for seats on Qantas’ London to Sydney service has been extremely strong, with Aussies coming home in time for Christmas and more flights added as a result.

“Throughout the pandemic, our Frequent Flyers have been stockpiling the points they’ve kept earning on the ground with program partners – like Woolworths and the banks. In a very positive sign of member engagement, they’ve come out in force as we have added flights.

“In October, Qantas Loyalty had its single biggest day for flight redemptions with more than half a billion points spent on 15,000 domestic and international seats in just 24 hours.

“A return to scale is good news for all customers because it means we can reopen lounges and bring more aircraft back into service – including our flagship A380s,” he said.

Grateful for support

“The ongoing support and understanding of our customers throughout this pandemic has been tremendous, and we look forward to being able to repay that as they come back to flying.

“This return to flying is obviously great news for our people who have endured a very difficult period. As we announced recently, all of our onshore employees are able to return to work by early December.

“Combined with operational and corporate employees already working, all 22,000 employees are expected to be back working, which wasn’t expected to happen until June next year.

“This is fantastic, particularly for those who have been stood down since the very start of the pandemic and thought it could be another year before they would be flying again.

“There aren’t many companies that have been hit by this pandemic as hard as Qantas. In years to come, we’ll look at this as a very difficult – but very significant – part of our long history. Something we endured. That we recovered from. And that ultimately made the national carrier better and more resilient.

“And that means we have a lot to look forward to, beyond the simple pleasure of flying again. Renewing our domestic fleet with Project Winton. Finally solving the tyranny of distance with Project Sunrise and more non-stop flights. And using technology to make meaningful inroads to cutting emissions.”

The Qantas Group say they will provide a more detailed market update in December when they have had the benefit of a few more weeks of trading at higher levels of activity.

Click the links to read the full transcripts from Chairman Richard Goyder and CEO Alan Joyce.