Australia’s flagship airline Qantas is celebrating its centenary with a low-level flyover of Sydney Harbour during the worst year in the history of aviation.
CEO Alan Joyce says celebrations of the significant milestone had been scaled down after a year that forced the nation’s flagship carrier to ground 95 cent of the fleet, make 600 workers redundant and stand down 25,000 others because of the global pandemic.
“But it is a big milestone. You know, we are the oldest continuous operating airline in the world. It was founded in western Queensland by three entrepreneurs.
“It was the tech start-up of its day. And it’s a very proud moment that the company is celebrating 100 years,” he told ABC TV on Monday.
“I have absolute confidence that this great company, a big icon, will survive through this and then will eventually thrive again,” he said.
He predicted that domestic travel would boom when all the state borders fully opened, saying Qantas and Jetstar sold 40,000 seats on the Sydney to Melbourne route in the first 24 hours when it was announced the NSW/Victorian border would fully open from next Monday.
The route which once had 45 flights a day had been reduced to just one – but from next week would be restored to 15.
“People want to travel … they want to visit family and friends,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.
He said the remaining travel restrictions in Queensland and WA did not make sense.
“It’s got to a stage now where it’s become ridiculous … the level of (COVID-19) community transmission is extremely low,” he said.
Although the border restrictions in Queensland and WA had been politically popular, they were causing social and economic harm, he said.
“Let’s open the borders before Christmas because I think the social and psychological impacts of that (staying closed) will be terrible,” he said.
The millions of Australians who travelled overseas prior to COVID-19 would be looking to travel domestically, which would be great for the economy as well as a lot of small businesses that were struggling around the country, he said.
Meanwhile, the centenary celebrations would include a 100-minute flight at sunset on Monday with 100 Qantas employees as well as selected Frequent Flyer passengers.
The plane will perform a wing wave over the HARS aviation museum at Albion Park on the NSW South Coast and Rose Bay in Sydney’s east, which became the first international airport in the city when Qantas launched Flying Boat services from Sydney to London in 1936.