As the global aviation sector battles to claw back its lost billions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Australians dreaming of a jaunt abroad could be dusting off their passports within the year.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce gave his insights into when we will be heading overseas again earlier this week. During a trading post in which the airline announced they'd made a $2 billion loss for FY20, Mr Joyce gave a rather optimistic forecast on overseas travel.
Mr Joyce said he predicts international travel to return by mid-2021, after the Federal Government put a ban on overseas travel in March.
But a small detail in his address points to a sign that longer overseas routes that require larger aircraft – such as A380s and the like – could be a lot further away, shedding some light on where Australians will be able to travel to first.
"Most airlines will come through this crisis a lot leaner, which means we have to reinvent how we run parts of our business to succeed in a changed market," Mr Joyce said on Thursday.
"We have parked the A380 for at least three years … We have put the 787s in long-term storage which fly transcontinental and we believe the earliest we will see the international borders opening up is the middle of next year.
"The US, with the level of [coronavirus] prevalence there, it is probably going to take some time. There will probably need to be a vaccine before we could see [flights] happening.
"We potentially could see a vaccine by the middle or the end of next year, and countries like the US may be the first country to have widespread use of that vaccine. So that could mean that the US is seen as a market by the end of 2021, hopefully we could, dependent on a vaccine, start seeing flights again."
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison dashed the hopes of would-be globe trotters hoping to head overseas by Christmas, announcing that Australia's border would remain closed indefinitely. He made the comments after more than five months of barring citizens and permanent residents from leaving the country.
"International travel constraints on inbound arrivals to Australia should be continued in their current form," he said on August 7.
"We look forward to at some point that that might be able to be altered but at this point we are not going to put any further strain on the quarantine arrangements around the country and that will remain in place now for some months."
Since border closures came into effect, all eyes have been on Australia's trans-Tasman bubble with New Zealand. But following the recent outbreak of coronavirus cases in Auckland – that prospect of travelling across the ditch has been put on ice.
"The Australian government has been keen to move on the trans-Tasman bubble, involving New Zealand, and the Bula bubble involving Fiji and several other South West Pacific Islands," Dr David Beirman, tourism lecturer at the University of Technology, told news.com.au.
"Problem is, that unless we have some uniformity on internal Australian travel … it's very difficult to work travel bubbles such as those which already operate in the EU countries."
But according to aviation expert Neil Hansford, New Zealand still remains at the top of his list of the first country to open to Australians. He predicts the Pacific Islands and even Singapore will closely follow.
"I think the world understands social distancing of 1.5-2 metres and the opening up won't be universal," he said.
"Africa and South America could be 24-36 months away. Even with a vaccine only wealthy nations populations will be able to afford it and even in Australia to vaccinate all of us within three months would be impossible.
"Once other countries can demonstrate NSW levels, the world will open up."
Mr Hansford predicted travel to countries like the UK and even Hawaii would've happened between April and June of 2021, but the setback from Victoria's outbreak "has put back the [international travel] restart time by four or six months".
But when our borders do open once again, Mr Hansford predicts 10 countries will be the first on the Australian travel list:
1. New Zealand
2. Pacific Islands
9. Scandinavia except Sweden