January 14, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier | Image credit: Qantas

As the Omicron variant continues to produce large COVID-19 caseloads across Australia, Qantas and Jetstar yesterday announced they would be cutting their flight capacity by around a third until the end of March.

Domestic flight capacity will drop from a planned 102 percent of pre-COVID levels to 70 percent, while international capacity will drop from 30 percent of pre-COVID travel to 20 percent.

Service frequency and using smaller aircraft will be the primary levers for adjusting capacity with the airline group retaining all staff to provide a buffer against the temporary loss of crew due to COVID-19 isolation requirements.

International flight capacity reduction is largely impacting Jetstar flights, driven by increased travel restrictions in countries like Japan, Thailand in Indonesia.

“The sudden uptick in COVID cases is having an obvious impact on consumer behaviour across various sectors, including travel, but we know it’s temporary,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

“Thankfully, Australia has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates and the Omicron variant is milder than its predecessors. So, as challenging as this current phase is, we’re optimistic that it is likely to fast track a return to normal.

“People are already looking beyond what’s happening now with early bookings for the Easter holidays in April looking promising for both domestic and international,” said Joyce.

Earlier this week Virgin Australia also announced a rough 25 percent reduction in flight capacity for from late January and into February as a result of lower travel demand the impacts of Omicron on its staff.

The airline is reducing flight frequency and suspending 10 routes, including its only international route, Sydney to Fiji. Domestic routes that have been suspended include Adelaide Cairns, Gold Coast Hobart and Melbourne to Hamilton Island.

“Virgin Australia remains focused on growing its network and consumer reach and will resume services as soon travel demand improves,” said Virgin Australia Chief Executive Jayne Hrdlicka.