Website of the Year

Qantas grounds international flights to all but one country

A Qantas Boeing 737 at Melbourne Airport. Photo / Grant Bradley

Qantas has cancelled all international flights until late October, with hopes of a trans-Tasman route by the end of the year in serious doubt.

The decision comes after federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia's border for overseas travel would likely reopen next year. Qantas signalled flights could resume if travel between Australia and other countries opened up, reports

"With Australia's borders set to remain closed for some time, we have cancelled most international flights until late October," a Qantas spokesperson said in a statement to AAP early on Thursday.

"We still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months, with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.

"Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand returns, we can add more flights back into our schedule."

Flight Centre founder and CEO Graham Turner said on Today this morning: "I think Qantas has made the decision that probably there is not going to be a lot of bilaterals agreed in terms of travel to and from until probably the end of September. New Zealand is the obvious exception.

"There may well be a few other countries in the meantime, but it is a bit of a mess at the moment."

On Wednesday Mr Birmingham encouraged Australians to holiday domestically, with international travel forbidden for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus threat.

Mr Birmingham told the National Press Club it is "more likely" Australians will be banned from overseas travel until 2021, unless under special exemptions for limited business travel and on compassionate grounds.

"I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes in suppressing the spread of COVID to Australia and New Zealand, and in working ... with those countries to find safe pathways to deal with essential business travel that helps to contribute to jobs across our economies,'' he said.

"But I do, sadly, think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off, just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first."

Asked if he was really talking about a travel ban until 2021, Senator Birmingham replied: "Honestly, I think that is more likely the case."

Thousands of Australians are still holding travel credits for cancelled overseas holidays with Qantas and other airline providers.

But Australia could allow international students back into the country sooner, as long as they are prepared to serve out a two-week quarantine period.

"There is a certain logic that extends to say that international students and other categories of visitors to Australia who stay here for a longer period of time can more easily be accommodated because we can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely to date,'' Mr Birmingham said.

Ultimate Kiwi Big Things Bingo

How many of New Zealand's big roadside objects have you passed?