The Qantas Group and Virgin Australia have praised the Federal Government’s AU$1.2 billion aviation industry support package, which involves the subsidy of hundreds of thousands of airfares to regional destinations.

Virgin Australia CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka, said the announcement was “excellent news for the aviation industry, the economy and all Australians”.

“This isn’t just good news for us, this is good news for all Australians,” she said. “The economic impact this will have cannot be underestimated.

“This is a once in a generation event that is going to give the entire tourism industry supply chain a significant boost, which it desperately needs.

“We have so many amazing tourism destinations right here in Australia, and this program enables irresistible prices that will get Australians out exploring the multitude of historically relevant, interesting and beautiful places we are lucky enough to have in our domestic backyard. There really has never been a better time to fly.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the half-price ticket program will initially operate to 13 key regions including the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island), the Sunshine Coast, Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, and Kangaroo Island.

He said flights, routes and the total number of tickets will be driven by demand and are subject to final discussions with the airlines.

Hrdlicka said the program was just the injection the tourism industry needed.

“The new domestic tourism support programs announced today are smart and well-targeted to deliver an economic boost where it is most needed. To be in the position where we can safely encourage and promote domestic travel puts us at the envy of the rest of the world,” she said.

“This package enables us to get more of our team members back to work more quickly than we would have been able to do before. As long as domestic borders remain open and travel demand continues to grow, we will accelerate our domestic expansion and also begin getting our international operations ready to open.

“On behalf of everyone at Virgin Australia – including all of our employees – I sincerely thank the Federal Government for the support provided to the aviation industry in the last 13 months. This ongoing support has been critical for our industry and recognises the vital role Australia’s airlines play in connecting Australia and fuelling economic growth across many sectors,” Hrdlicka said.

Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, said the AU$1.2 billion industry-wide package has several elements which, combined, “will support the sector that has arguably been worst hit by the COVID crisis and related restrictions. It is the result of detailed discussions with government and business over several months”.

“This support is fantastic news for aviation and for the thousands of businesses, big and small, that rely on the tourism industry,” he said.

“With the vaccine rollout now giving more certainty that state borders will stay open, this is the perfect time to provide stimulus and get people travelling domestically again, particularly given there won’t be any international tourists for another seven months,” Joyce said.

He said Qantas and Jetstar are at about 60 per cent of their pre-COVID levels of domestic flying for the third quarter of this financial year and project this will increase to around 80 per cent in the fourth quarter.

“The stimulus program gives more certainty that increase will occur and, depending on take-up, is expected to accelerate it, and it will bring our domestic crews back to work faster and help them ramp up their hours closer to pre-crisis levels,” Joyce said.

“We have around 7,500 people in our international business who have already been out of work for a year and will unfortunately stay grounded until at least the end of October.

“The targeted support from the Federal Government is about helping people stay connected to aviation despite the extended period of time they still face on the ground. It helps preserve the skills and experience we’re going to need when long haul flying restarts. In a country like Australia, that capability has taken years to build and is absolutely crucial for the nation’s future.

“To be clear, this targeted support will go directly to employees to help them meet their cost of living while they wait for international flying to return. It’s not a subsidy for Qantas.

“In total, this package is a lifeline for the broader travel and tourism sector in Australia, just as it’s trying to get back on its feet. Ultimately, it’s an investment in an industry that has always been a huge driver of economic activity and will be again,” Joyce said.

He said over the coming weeks, the Qantas Group will work with the Federal Government and broader industry on detail to support the rollout of the stimulus program.

Special fares will be available from 1 April 2021 for travel from 1 May 2021.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management