SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX) and Air New Zealand Ltd (AIR.NZ) on Thursday outlined plans for a significant increase in domestic capacity as travel restrictions related to the pandemic eased, sending their shares higher.
FILE PHOTOS: Qantas planes seen at Kingsford Smith International Airport, after a coronavirus outbreak, in Sydney, Australia, March 18, 2020. REUTERS / Loren Elliott / Photo File
Qantas said it would increase domestic capacity to 15% from pre-pandemic levels by the end of June, up from 5% now.
The airline said more flights were likely in July depending on travel demand and further opening of the country’s borders, with the ability to increase up to 40% of pre-crisis capacity by the end of July.
Air New Zealand said it would increase domestic capacity to 55% from normal levels during July and August, up from 20% after a tight national lockdown was lifted in May.
Qantas shares were trading 5% higher at 0240 GMT, while Air New Zealand shares were up 4.8%. Australia and New Zealand have reported several new cases of COVID-19 in the past few weeks.
Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said there was a hidden demand for domestic air travel.
“We have seen a large increase in customer bookings and flight planning in the coming weeks and months,” he said in a statement.
The initial Qantas increase is equivalent to more than 300 flights home a week.
The most populous state in Australia, New South Wales, allows residents to travel to relax in the state starting June 1.
Qantas and Jetstar low-cost planes add flights from Sydney to Ballina, near the popular tourist destination Byron Bay in the north of the state, with Jetstar advertising flexible one-way sales rates starting from A $ 35 ($ 24.13).
But Queensland, a favorite destination in the southern hemisphere’s winter because of its warmer weather, has so far kept the state borders closed.
Joyce said Qantas could increase flying quickly during the July school holidays if border restrictions were reduced.
($ 1 = 1.4507 Australian dollars)
Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Christopher Cushing
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