In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s biggest airline Qantas mentioned on Thursday (19 March) it would halt all international flights and suspend 20,000 staff later this month. This follows a move by rival airline Virgin Australia which did the same earlier (13 March).
Qantas’ announcement that all international flights would be suspended by late March comes at least two months after the government told to Australian citizens to cancel all overseas flights to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Qantas CEO, Mr Alan Joyce said in a press release earlier today, “The efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before.”
He added that the airline would suspend 20,000 of its 30,000 staff during the shutdown.
Qantas already announced earlier this week in a statement on 17 March that it is cutting 90 per cent of its overseas flights while Virgin Australia grounded its entire international fleet. In addition, Qantas maintained 60 per cent of its domestic flights, whereas Virgin Australia maintained 50 per cent.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday (18 March) announced an unprecedented decision to advise all Australians to cancel international trips.
He has also ordered a halt to all cruise ship activity into and out of the country, and banned outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people and indoor groups of more than 100 people.
Australia confirmed 700 COVID-19 cases and has seen a rapid increase in infections daily. There have also been six deaths so far. Australian officials say the majority of new cases involve people arriving from overseas or those who have been in contact with them.
What’s more, as quoted by The Guardian, analysts predict that the COVID-19 pandemic would bankrupt most of the world’s airlines by the end of May.