Qantas on Friday morning announced plans to bring forward more outgoing international flights from Australia, with the airline to also bring back all its employees in early December.
The decision to bring forward the flights follows the federal and New South Wales governments confirming last week that international borders would reopen from November 1.
"These decisions -- combined with plans by states and territories to reopen domestic borders -- support all Qantas and Jetstar workers based in Australia and New Zealand who are currently stood down to return to work by early December 2021. This includes around 5,000 employees linked to domestic flying and around 6,000 linked to international flying," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
With the changes, Qantas will slowly open outgoing flights from Sydney to Bangkok, Delhi, Fiji, Johannesburg, Phuket, and Singapore from late November. Jetstar will also recommence flights from Melbourne and Darwin to Singapore from December 16.
This is in addition to Qantas' already announced flights between Sydney to London and Sydney to Los Angeles from November 1.
Flights to Honolulu, Vancouver, Tokyo, and New Zealand are still scheduled to commence from mid-December, with other destinations to restart in the next year, Joyce said.
Joyce also confirmed that all of these initial flights would follow Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's mandate of prioritising Australian citizens, residents, and their families instead of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet's statement that vaccinated tourists would be free to go into New South Wales from November 1.
Later in the morning, Perottet backtracked from his earlier position and said he was on the same page as the prime minister in wanting to prioritise travel for Australian citizens.
"Well, certainly, we join the Prime Minister here in New South Wales in reiterating those sentiments. We do want to open up as quickly as possible and have as many around the world come and see the best that New South Wales has to offer, particularly though it's important, as the Prime Minister has said, that we have returning Australians come home first. That's obviously a clear first priority," Perottet said.
At the domestic level, flights between Melbourne and Sydney will commence when the states' borders reopen on November 1. When the borders reopen, Qantas and Jetstar will operate up to 18 return flights per day and ramp up to 37 return flights by Christmas.
Earlier this week, the Australian government confirmed its QR-code based international digital vaccination certificate was ready to go.
The vaccination certificate, called the Visible Digital Seal (VDS), can be downloaded through the Medicare Express Plus app. It can also be printed and will be compatible with COVID-19 travel apps, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass.
It is available to Australians and Australian visa holders who have a valid passport and their COVID-19 vaccination recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register.
Updated at 11:45am AEST, 22 October 2021: added comments from NSW Premier Dominic Perottet.