Australian airline Qantas has suspended plans to commence record-breaking non-stop flights to London and New York due to disruption caused by coronavirus.
It was reported that the carrier has made the decision to delay the so-called “Project Sunrise”, which was due to launch in 2023, for an indefinite period.
As a result, the airline has also dropped plans to buy 12 of Airbus’ SE A350 planes, which are capable of completing the mammoth trips.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said that international travel demand was likely to take years to recover from the damage done by the pandemic.
Currently, Qantas is operating at five per cent of its pre-crisis domestic levels and one per cent of its international levels, with existing flight cancellations to be extended to the end of June.
This means that the 25,000 staff that the airline has stood down will remain so until the end of June at the earliest.
The carrier has taken additional steps to strengthen its financial position, securing AU$550m (£284m) in funding against three of its aircraft.
With AU$1.05bn already secured in March, Joyce said that Qantas was in “a very strong position” to ride out the crisis:
“Our ability to withstand this crisis and its aftermath is only possible because we’re tapping into a balance sheet that has taken years to build”.
Rival carrier Virgin Australia entered administration last month as due to the combination of the crisis and its debt pile.
Joyce said that there was hope that some flights to New Zealand might be possible soon due to both countries’ impressive handling of the virus.
New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinta Ardern said that the two nations were discussing a “travel bubble” between them.
The island nation has only had 1,500 confirmed cases of the disease, and 20 deaths, while Australia has suffered 7,000 cases and 96 deaths.
Joyce said: “Australia has done an amazing job of flattening the curve and we’re optimistic that domestic travel will start returning earlier than first thought, but we clearly won’t be back to pre-coronavirus levels anytime soon.
“With the possible exception of New Zealand, international travel demand could take years to return to what it was”.