Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar said they will suspend all international flights from late March until “at least” the end of May 2020, and cut 60 per cent of domestic flights after the Australian government advised its citizens not to travel overseas due to the spread of Covid-19.

“The efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before. This is having a devastating impact on all airlines,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

Scheduled international flights operated by Qantas and Jetstar will continue until late March to help repatriate Australians, the airline said in a press release.

On March 18, the Australian government issued its highest travel advice level (level 4), advising Australians to avoid all travel regardless of destination, age and health.

Qantas said essential domestic, regional and freight connections will be maintained “as much as possible”. Some of its domestic passenger aircraft will also be used for freight-only flights to replace lost capacity from regular scheduled services.

The airline will also temporarily ground 150 aircraft, including all of Qantas’ A380s, 747s and B787-9s and Jetstar’s B787-8s. Qantas said discussions are progressing with airports and government about parking for these aircraft.

The airline also said there is no impact on Qantas Loyalty’s operations as a result of today’s announcement.

International network changes

While all regularly scheduled Qantas and Jetstar international flights from Australia will be halted starting from the end of March, some flights may continue in order to “maintain key links”, based on ongoing discussions between Qantas and the Australian government, the airline said.

Singapore-based Jetstar Asia will suspend all flights from March 23 to at least April 15 this year.

Jetstar Japan has suspended international flights and cut domestic flying.

Vietnam-based Jetstar Pacific has suspended international flights and will “significantly” cut domestic flying.

Domestic network changes

The Qantas Group said it will maintain connectivity to almost all Australian domestic and regional destinations that Qantas, Qantas Link and Jetstar currently operate to.

The airline added that the 60 per cent reduction in capacity for domestic routes will come mostly from a “significant” reduction in flight frequency, but also route suspensions and postponing a number of new route launches.

Details of these changes can be found here.

Qantas will stand down almost 30,000 employees 

Qantas and Jetstar will also stand down the majority of their 30,000 employees until at least the end of May 2020, the airline said in a press release.

“Most of our people will be using various types of paid leave during this time, and we’ll have a number of support options in place. We’re also talking to our partners like Woolworths about temporary job opportunities for our people,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

The airline said its senior group management executives and its board have increased their salary reductions from 30 per cent to 100 per cent until “at least” the end of this financial year, joining the Qantas chairman and Group CEO in taking no pay. Annual management bonuses have also been cancelled.

Long wait times at call centres 

The carrier said customer contact centres are currently experiencing long wait times from people seeking to change their travel plans as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The airline is asking customers to only call if they have travel booked within the next 48 hours.

Qantas is converting all bookings on cancelled flights to a travel credit, which it said can be used anywhere on its network. Affected customers will be contacted directly from next Monday, the airline added.

Customers travelling before the end of May who wish to change their booking are also eligible to receive a travel credit instead.

If flights were booked through a travel agency or third-party website, customers will need to contact them directly to make changes to their booking, the airline said.

Australian carrier Virgin Australia said earlier this week it will also temporarily suspend all international flights and further cut domestic capacity due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel demand.

Virgin Australia to suspend all international flying until mid-June /