The boss of Qantas, Alan Joyce has stated publicly what many in travel have been saying in private: Australia’s major airline will not be flying internationally until July 2021.
With the exception of New Zealand and a handful of other ‘travel bubble’ destinations, all international flying will be suspended unless a coronavirus vaccine is released.
“We might get trans-Tasman (travel) before then, we may get other nations opening up with bubbles,” but he doesn’t expect the Qantas’ international network to restart “in any real size (until) July next year.”
“We have to be realistic about it and say with what’s happening in the rest of the globe – it is probably an extended period of time”.
He also said that he believes it would take “years before international flying returns to what it was.”
But Mr Joyce also said, in terms of rebuilding Qantas’ overseas network, “if there’s a vaccine it may happen rapidly, if there are other ways of testing, of treatment, it may happen a little bit slower.”
He also articulated the airline industry’s peak body, the International Air Transports Association’s predictions, saying it will take more than three years for global travel to return to pre-coronavirus levels.
But what does this mean for cruise?
While Australia’s cruise ban currently stands at 17 September, other countries in Europe are starting to open their cruise ports.
A raft of places in the north of Europe, like Denmark and Norway have already started a late cruise season.
There are also a number of lines which will do round trips around the United Kingdom. River cruising has also resumed in parts of Germany, with A-Rosa commencing sailing this month.
Currently, there are a small handful of airlines like Qatar and Cathay Pacific selling repatriation flights from Europe, while United and Air New Zealand are flying from the United States.
Singapore Airlines, a favourite among cruise passengers, has been equally honest in its communications, accepting that it won’t be able to fly until governments – and passengers – are ready.
So where does that leave cruise?
Almost every line – from the contemporary like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, to the luxury market which includes Crystal Cruises and Seabourn, to the expedition lines – sell international cruises.
Cruise lines are still currently selling international voyages for the end of 2020 and also the beginning 2021.
And there has been some concern in the industry about how this might damage the industries credibility, from the head of travel agency giant Helloworld’s Andrew Burnes to the Jeffery Gillies, commercial director of Australian-flagged Coral Expeditions.
They feel that selling cruises that Australians can’t take will make the return of cruise harder.
Cruise Passenger asked Cruise Lines International Association Australasia whether the Qantas statement made a difference to the way it thought cruise ought to be sold.
Joel Katz, Managing Director Australasia, said: “Globally, we envisage cruising will resume in a phased and regional form. In Australia and New Zealand, this may include domestic-only or trans-Tasman itineraries ahead of international borders opening.
“However, first we are engaging with governments and health authorities as we develop the enhanced health protocols that will support future operations. This will ensure we have the best possible measures in place in response to COVID-19 and allow us to discuss a pathway towards revival at the appropriate time.”
Kathy Pavlidis from Travel Associates said most of her clients have opted for future cruise credits and are yet to go ahead with booking.
But she stresses, this is the time to plan.
“My advice is wait and use this time to consider your options. Use this time to plan and think about your future cruise. It’s too early to speculate and so use this to assess and watch for any announcements,” she said.
So both are saying: “Wait and see”. And that would be our advice as well.