With SAA out of the picture for more than a year, international media reports indicate that Qantas could be relooking at introducing a direct Johannesburg-Perth flight down the line.
According to simpleflying.com, Qantas began flying the Joburg-Perth route in the 1950s. In 2000, the airline signed a codeshare with SAA on flights between Australia and South Africa where SAA operated the Jo’burg-Perth flight and Qantas operated the Jo’burg-Sydney flight. Both airlines had monopolies on these routes, which are said to have proved quite successful over the years, due to the big expat South African population in Australia.
Both Qantas and SAA suspended their South Africa-Australia routes last March due to lockdown restrictions. A year later, neither route has resumed, but with SAA’s delays in implementing its business rescue plan, it is debatable whether the airline will ever resume the Perth route again, which could present an opportunity for Qantas.
Media reports indicate that Qantas was already eyeing this route in 2018, but a fall-out between Qantas and Perth Airport prevented the route from launching. It is understood that Qantas wanted to centralise all its domestic and international services from a joint terminal in Perth Airport, but the airport resisted this plan, insisting instead that international flights departed from its international terminal.
Qantas Regional Manager Africa, Michi Messner, told Tourism Update that the airline’s proposed restart date for international flights had been postponed and flights were now expected to resume on October 31. This date aligns with the expected timeframe for Australia’s COVID vaccine roll-out to be effectively complete.
“The Group remains in close consultation with the Federal Government around the reopening of international borders and will keep customers updated if further adjustments are required. Qantas is assessing the use of digital health pass apps to help support the resumption of COVID-safe international travel. The CommonPass and Iata Travel Pass smartphone apps are being trialled on the airline’s international repatriation flights,” said Qantas in a recent statement, where it confirmed that it planned to resume 22 of its 25 pre-COVID international destinations, including Johannesburg, from October 31.
“Regarding Johannesburg-Perth, I can’t comment at this stage. This is not to say we aren’t interested in the route, but our first focus is in resuming our original international routes, including Johannesburg-Sydney, to coincide with the reopening of Australia’s borders,” said Messner.
Following last year's retirement of its Boeing 747s, Qantas is readying to switch over to a Boeing 787-9 on the Sydney-Johannesburg route.
"We've now got the ETOPS [Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards] approval for the 787s to fly direct from Sydney to Jo'burg; in fact, we've already done a few repatriation flights that way," Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, told Reuters Next online forum in January.
"And if we can resolve our dispute with Perth Airport, we will start the Perth-Joburg service, which is on our list of new routes, and we think that will be very successful," he added.