June 5, 2020 / 2:02 AM / a month ago

Qantas to reactivate plans for Sydney-London flights when financial strength returns

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX) will reactivate plans to order airplanes capable of the world’s longest non-stop commercial flights from Sydney to London when the airline returns to financial strength, its chief executive said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A Qantas plane takes off from Kingsford Smith International Airport, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Sydney, Australia, March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

“I think the business case for doing it is very strong,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said on a tourism industry webcast.

“The aircraft are not going anywhere,” he added. “When we are comfortable in doing it and have the financial strength to do it, we will be doing it.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the airline had planned this year to order up to 12 Airbus SE (AIR.PA) A350-1000 planes to allow Sydney-London and Sydney-New York flights by 2023.

The airline has since grounded 220 planes and halted all international flying with the exception of government repatriation charters and cargo flights.

Qantas on Thursday said it would triple domestic capacity to 15% of normal levels by the end of the month, with the potential to rise to 40% of normal in July if state border restrictions ease.

Joyce said the outlook for international travel was less clear and would depend on countries’ getting COVID-19 under control or a vaccine being developed.

Australia, which has few COVID-19 cases, has barred its citizens from almost all outbound travel.

Joyce said that was likely to boost demand for holidays in domestic destinations like Cairns and Broome, and that Qantas would offer low fares to help stimulate demand and reduce the A$40 million ($27.76 million) monthly cash burn from planes sitting on the ground.

($1 = 1.4407 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gerry Doyle

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