Qantas is selling seats on international flights for July 2021, indicating that long-haul travel could be an option for Australians sooner than expected.
The Australian airline has opened up bookings to the coronavirus-riddled United Kingdom and the United States, as well as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.
The American and UK routes were previously off the cards until at least October 2021.
A Qantas spokesperson earlier told Executive Traveller that the airline hopes international travel to most destinations will resume by July 1.
'We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation,' the spokesman said.
Qantas has advertised international flights for July 2021, indicating that international travel could be an option for Australians sooner than expected
Qantas' only regular international route at the moment is between New Zealand and Australia.
But foreign travel is likely to come with a host of restrictions.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said long haul international flights would likely only be an option for people who had chosen to take the Covid vaccine.
'But we are getting more and more confident about the opportunities and the potential for a vaccine in helping to get those operations up by potentially by the end of 2021,' he said.
Travelers would also be expected to take a Covid test prior to boarding their flight.
He indicated there may be exceptions made for certain 'travel bubble' destinations.
According to Qantas' website, return flights between Brisbane and London will be available for $2,050 from July.
The travel industry initially hoped to have a travel bubble up and running between Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore by March 29, but that has now been scrapped in favour of a July 1 restart
Overseas travel outside of Australia has been banned for all but essential reasons since March 20, 2020, meaning it would have been more than a year since most Australians had the opportunity to recreationally fly by the time borders begin reopening.
The travel industry initially hoped to have a bubble up and running between Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore by March 29, but that has now been scrapped in favour of the July 1 restart.
Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States are all in the grips of out-of-control Covid crises.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the virus is largely under control, except for several smaller clusters in New South Wales and Melbourne.
There are concerns opening the borders for international travel could result in a wave of imported coronavirus cases from current hotspots.
The Australian government is yet to comment on whether mandatory hotel quarantine protocols will be lifted, even if recreational international travel resumes.
In October 2020, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said long haul international flights would likely only be an option for people who had chosen to take the Covid vaccine
Pictured: A person taking a test at a Covid drive-through clinic in Sydney
Travellers would also be expected to take a Covid test prior to boarding their flight.
'Overall, we're optimistic about the recovery but we're also cautious given the various unknowns,' Mr. Joyce said late in 2020.
'We also have a lot of repair work to do on our balance sheet from the extra debt we've taken on to get through the past nine months.'
Qantas last month announced it would be retrenching another 2,000 staff as it outsourced baggage handling and ground crew operations in a bid to save $100million a year.
The 100-year-old airline has retrenched 13,500 jobs during the course of the pandemic, but it expected this to increase to 14,000 by March 2021.