In what has been a horror 18 months for the global aviation industry, Qantas has revealed a staggering A$2.3 billion ($2.4b) loss before tax amid the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic which has decimated the tourism industry.
At the underlying level, the airline's loss was A$1.8b — a figure exceeding expert predictions.
In the airline's yearly trading update posted on Thursday, the nation's largest airline said the results were a result of ongoing international border closures, as well as strict domestic travel restrictions and state lockdowns especially in NSW over the Christmas period.
"This loss shows the impact that a full year of closed international borders and more than 330 days of domestic travel restrictions had on the national carrier. The trading conditions have frankly been diabolical.," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said on Thursday.
"It comes on top of the significant loss we reported last year and the travel restrictions we've seen in the past few months. By the end of this calendar year, it's likely Covid will cost us more than A$20b in revenue.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, Qantas has announced 46 new domestic routes, many to regional destinations, in response to a boom in leisure travel driven largely by the closure of international borders.
But despite the substantial loss, the airline said they have started FY2022 in a fundamentally better position.
"We're in a far better position to manage it than this time last year," Joyce said.
"We're able to move quickly when borders open and close. We're a leaner and more efficient organisation. And our requirement for all employees to be vaccinated will create a safer environment for our people and customers.
"When Australia reaches those critical vaccination targets later this year and the likelihood of future lockdowns and border closures reduces, we expect to see a surge in domestic travel demand and a gradual return of international travel."
Joyce provided some uplifting news for Aussies keen to dust off their passports, with the airline still surging towards a 2021 restart.
The Qantas Group outlined that on current projections, Australia is expected to reach national cabinet's 'Phase C' vaccination threshold of 80 per cent in December 2021, which would trigger the gradual reopening of international borders.
Joyce said key markets like the UK, North America and parts of Asia have high and increasing levels of vaccination, which make them highly likely to be classed as low risk countries for vaccinated travellers to visit and return from under reduced quarantine requirements.
Flights to destinations that still have low vaccine rates and high levels of Covid infection, such as Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg will likely remain closed until later in 2022.
The yearly results come just days after the Australian airline announced it will be making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for all employees if they wish to keep their job with the airline.
Last week, Joyce said Qantas' mandate will come into effect from mid-November.
The airline said in a statement that frontline staff — such as cabin crew, pilots and airport workers — will be required to be fully vaccinated by November 15, while all remaining employees will need the jab by the end of March 2022.