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Qantas declares COVID-19 'existential crisis' over

"These figures are staggering and getting through to the other side has obviously been tough," says chief executive Alan Joyce

August 25, 2022

SYDNEY: Australian national carrier Qantas reported Thursday that its business had started to bounce back after three years of pandemic turmoil, which cost the airline $17 billion in revenue.

"These figures are staggering and getting through to the other side has obviously been tough," chief executive Alan Joyce said.

"We always knew travel demand would recover strongly but the speed and scale of that recovery has been exceptional."

By the end of June, domestic travel was above pre-pandemic levels, Qantas reported, with 20 new routes added to meet demand for leisure travel around Australia.

A sluggish rebound in international travel — still lagging below 50 per cent of pre-pandemic highs — was "offset by a record performance" in the group's freight business.

But the fourth quarter travel surge was not enough to make up for a year plagued by Omicron and Delta wave lockdowns, which caused a third straight loss before tax of Aus$1.2 billion (US$830 million).

Releasing its full-year results Thursday, Qantas declared that "the existential crisis posed by the pandemic (was) now over" and it would shift focus to operational challenges.

Earlier this month, the airline asked its senior executives to work as baggage handlers because of labour shortages — a serious issue across Australia's long-locked-down economy.

The move was controversial because Qantas had sacked about 2,000 ground staff during Covid-19 lockdowns - a mass axing Australia's federal court ruled in May was illegal.

Qantas has vowed to appeal the verdict to the High Court.

Earlier this week, Joyce apologised to Qantas customers for the lengthy delays at airports across the country as travel rebounded, offering flight vouchers to frequent flyers worth 50 Australian dollars.

"Over the past few months, too many of you have had flights delayed, flights cancelled and bags misplaced... it's not good enough," he said.

"On behalf of the national carrier, I want to apologise and assure you that we're working hard to get back to our best."