Travel and coronavirus: Qantas to boost domestic flights by 40 per cent by end of July

Qantas is preparing to scale up its domestic flying from its current 5 per cent of pre-pandemic levels to 40 per cent by the end of July, pending the reopening of state borders.

The airline said on Thursday that travel demand was picking up sufficiently to start adding capacity to its Australian network, which would enable some of its 25,000 stood down employees to return to work.

Qantas and its budget arm Jetstar have been flying at about 5 per cent of their normal domestic capacity since the coronavirus shut some state borders and eliminated demand for non-essential travel.

The airline said it would gradually start increasing capacity to reach 15 per cent by the end of June, or about 300 return flights per week. Qantas and Jetstar flights between Sydney and Melbourne would increase from 12 return flights a week to 67 by the end of June.

Qantas has scheduled flights equivalent to 40 per cent of its normal network by the end of July but will cancel some of those flights if there is not the expected level of bookings or if state borders remained closed. Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are yet to open their borders for interstate travel by non-residents.

“We know there is a lot of pent-up demand for air travel and we are already seeing a big increase in customers booking and planning flights in the weeks and months ahead,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said in a statement.

"We can quickly ramp up flying in time for the July school holidays if border restrictions have eased more by then. Normally, we plan our capacity months in advance but in the current climate we need to be flexible to respond to changing restrictions and demand levels."

Qantas has developed measures to lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission on flights, including contactless check-in, more rigorous cleaning and offering masks and sanitising wipes to all passengers.

Social distancing will not be enforced on board and, unlike at some airlines, wearing a mask is not compulsory.

In an effort to give people the confidence to plan travel despite not knowing when state borders will reopen, Qantas is allowing customers more flexibility than usual to change their bookings.