Australian national airline begins to shrink pandemic debt with restart of travel

A new market update from Australia’s national airline Qantas Group has shown that the restart of travel has allowed the airline to begin to climb out from a mountain of debt accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the latest financial year report released on Friday, Qantas’ debt peaked during the pandemic at more than 6.4 billion Australian dollars (4.42 billion U.S. dollars) but was expected to fall to around 4 billion Australian dollars (2.76 billion U.S. dollars) by June 30.

The airline attributed the improvement to strong international and travel demand over the first half of 2022  since Australia lifted the majority of COVID-related travel restrictions.

The airline turned its first profit since the onset of the pandemic in the second half of the 2022 financial year, and expects to continue to post a profit in the coming 2023 financial year beginning July 1.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the turnaround in business began in December last year when workers returned to work ahead of the border reopening.

“It’s been a tough few years for everyone in aviation but we promised to share the benefits of the recovery once it arrived. Today’s announcement is part of that,” Joyce said.

To pass the recovery boost on to its workers and acknowledge “the sacrifices” made by workers furloughed during the pandemic, the airline also announced one-off payments of 5,000 Australian dollars (about 3,450 U.S. dollars) to 19,000 of its employees.

Alongside its market update, the airline also opened several new flight paths, noting that investing in future growth would be key to continuing to drive down pandemic debt and boosting worker wages.

From November, Qantas is set to run direct flights from Perth to both South Africa’s Johannesburg and Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.

“Western Australia has become an increasingly important part of our international network and we’re really excited to be launching two more routes from Perth,” said Joyce.

“Our direct flights from Perth to London and Rome are selling really strongly, which gives us the confidence to add new routes from our western hub.”