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Qantas extends flight cancellations, shelves Project Sunrise

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Aviation Updates Philippines – Australian flag carrier Qantas has announced that it will extend the cancellation of its domestic and international flights and will suspend its ambitious Project Sunrise indefinitely, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has brought global air travel to a standstill.

CHANGE OF PLANS. Qantas will be extending the cancellation of its domestic and international flights and will be suspending Project Sunrise indefinitely. Photo by Vismay Bhadra.
According to the airline, its domestic and trans-Tasman services will remain suspended until end-June, while all other international flights will remain suspended until end-July. The airline, however, said that some capacity could be added back into its domestic and trans-Tasman routes within a week's notice if restrictions were to be lifted.

At the same time, the airline also announced that it has decided to put the launch of its much-awaited Project Sunrise flights on hold, saying that now is not the right time given the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on air travel.

Project Sunrise is the airline's plan to launch ultra-long-haul flights from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to cities such as London, Paris, and New York by 2023 using a fleet of Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. 

The suspension of the project means that the airline will also have to postpone its anticipated order of around 12 modified Airbus A350-1000s capable of servicing 18-20 hour flights, a deal which would have been valued as much as US$4.4 billion.

"We certainly won't be ordering aircraft for that this year and we will keep a review on when is the appropriate time, when has the market recovered, when is Qantas in a position to commit to more aircraft and more capital," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Executive Traveller.

The airline was originally supposed to place an order for the new aircraft in March 2020.

Simple Flying, meanwhile, reported that the airline is currently in the process of reviewing its entire international fleet and has decided to put its Airbus A380 refurbishment program on hold. The airline also said that there is also a possibility that it may not bring all of its 12 A380s back in service, following in the footsteps of Lufthansa which retired six of its A380s this year.

Qantas, like many of the world's airlines, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. The airline previously said that it expects to reach a cash burn rate of $40 million by end-June. Earlier this week, the airline secured A$550 million (around US$354 million) in debt funding using three of its Boeing 787-9 aircraft as collateral to strengthen its balance sheet. In March, the airline also raised A$1.05 billion (around $633 million) in funding against seven of its Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

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