Qantas hopeful COVID bubbles will open with Taiwan, South Korea

With Qantas all but writing off flights to the US and the UK until at least the end of 2021, the Australian airline has tipped new routes and ‘travel bubbles’ that could emerge early next year.

Speaking at the airline’s annual general meeting on Friday, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and chairman Richard Goyder said they had hopes of launching new routes in Asia and the Pacific, including to destinations such as Taiwan and South Korea.

Mr Joyce said he hoped COVID travel bubbles could open in early 2021, giving Australians new travel opportunities when the international borders reopen and before a vaccine is released.

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Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the pandemic presented an opportunity to look at potential new domestic and international routes. Picture: Flavio Brancaleone/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia

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“For some of our big destination like the United States and the UK, it’s going to need a vaccine given the high prevalence of the virus in both of those locations,” Mr Joyce said.

“But we are getting more and more confident about the opportunities and the potential for a vaccine in helping getting those operations up by potentially by the end of 2021.”

Mr Goyder added that the airline was keeping an eye on other domestic and international opportunities, such as what has been developed with New Zealand, with other countries recording low COVID-19 case numbers.

Chilling out in Seoul may become the next overseas hotspot over the US and parts of Europe. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied

Qantas is looking at new routes in Asia with the UK and UK set to be off limits until late in 2021. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied

“Both Qantas and Jetstar are keeping a close eye on new markets that might open up as a result of these bubbles – including places that weren’t part of our pre-COVID network,” he said.

“By early next year, we may find that Korea, Taiwan and various islands in the Pacific are top Qantas destinations while we wait for our core international markets like the US and UK to re-open.”

Jetstar, which opened direct flights from the Gold Coast to Seoul in December 2019, hoped the route would see the South Korean capital become the “new Japan”.

With the closing of the border in March this year, Qantas had previously said it did not expect to resume any significant international flying until the middle of next year.

Mr Goyder said the ongoing domestic border closure had cost the airline a staggering $100 million in the past three months, and forced Qantas to keep around 18,000 workers stood down.

Qantas had previously said they did not expect to resume any significant international flying until the middle of next year.Source:Alamy

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday following the National Cabinet meeting that all states and territories have “agreed in principle” to get Australia open by the end of the year.

Mr Morrison said the next National Cabinet meeting was scheduled for November 13, where leaders could discuss potentially moving the timetable of reopening borders forward.

Mr Goyder hit out at state and territory leaders who continued to keep the borders closed, despite cases continuing to dip across the country.

“This inertia doesn’t seem to be based on the actual health risk,” he said.

“And that seems to ignore the broader economic and social risk involved with staying shut – especially as federal income support winds down.”

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