Qantas expects to start international flights in October

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FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2015, file photo, a Qantas plane maneuvers behind another parked at a gate at Sydney Airport in Sydney. Qantas Airways chief executive Alan Joyce said on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, he doesn't expect his airline will resume international travel except for New Zealand until late October, after the Australian population is vaccinated for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

CANBERRA – Qantas Airways does not expect to resume international travel apart from New Zealand until late October after the Australian population is vaccinated for COVID-19, the airline’s chief executive said on Thursday.

The Sydney-based airline had been selling seats on international flights from July 1.

But there has been a huge surge in COVID-19 cases around the world since those July flights went on sale in early January, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said. There were also new coronavirus variants emerging.

Those tickets sold for flights after July 1 and before Oct. 31 are being refunded.

“We are now planning for international travel to restart at the end of October this year in line with the day for Australia’s vaccine rollout to be effectively complete,” Joyce said.

Australia’s immunization program began this week. The government expects vaccine will be made available to anyone who wants it by October.

But Australia plans to administer a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine 12 weeks after the first. The wait between doses of the Pfizer product is only 3-to-4 weeks. So some of those taking AstraZenca might not be effectively vaccinated by the end of October.

Qantas still expected a “material increase” in flights between Australia and New Zealand by July, Joyce said.