Australian airline Qantas plans to lure back wary travelers with flights as cheap as $12.50 – admitting Wednesday that it wants to pack planes without social distancing in its new coronavirus safety protocols.
The hard-hit airline‘s chief executive, Alan Joyce, announced plans for $19 flights between Melbourne and Sydney – equivalent to $12.50 US – as part of a push to get back to “40 to 50 percent of pre-COVID-19 operation” by July.
“We have to offer really cheap airfares to get people to overcome their reluctance around COVID-19,” he told 9News’ “Today” show, with current bookings just 5 percent of normal.
His company also revealed a series of new “Fly Well” safety measures to start on June 12, including contactless check-in, sanitizer wipes, extra cleaning and masks handed to every traveler.
But the airline – which previously planned to remove middle seats to maintain space – insists it is not needed because the pressurized cabin along with medical-grade filters keeps travelers safe.
Joyce said that because passengers face the same direction with “a barrier of a seat in front of them” there is “a very low risk of transmission.”
He also claimed that “we don’t know of a single person-to-person transmission on an aircraft” connected to the pandemic that has infected more than 4.9 million people worldwide.
“With the cabin, with the measures we’re introducing – the masks, the sanitizers for people to wipe down, the extra cleaning we’re doing ourselves, hand sanitizers all the way through the terminals – we’re very comfortable you don’t need social distancing on an aircraft,” he told the show.
If Qantas had to fulfill even 5 feet between passengers, it would leave just 22 people onboard an Airbus SE A320 made for 180, the chief executive said.
“That means airfares are going to be eight to nine times more than they are today,” he said. “It economically will not be justified.”
Joyce claimed that 98 percent of the company’s frequent fliers had indicated they were raring to get back in the air.
While masks will be handed out, they will not be mandatory to wear, the company said in announcing its “Fly Well” safety features.
“We’re relying on the cooperation of passengers to help make these changes work for everyone’s benefit,” Joyce said in a statement.
As of Wednesday morning, Australia had recorded 7,079 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
With Post wires
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