Grounded: Qantas stuck on the tarmac in pandemic recovery journey - Sydney Morning Herald

Qantas planes grounded in April.

Qantas planes grounded in April. Credit:Jason South

Qantas boss Alan Joyce made a typical boast this week: that his airline was in a better position than any other in the world to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

If true, it’s a case of being the best in a bad bunch. Just a day earlier, the peak body representing airlines globally warned that the industry remained in a “perilous” position.

Forward bookings for February and March are still down 80 per cent, more airlines are set to collapse and passenger numbers are not set to recover to 2019 levels until 2023, the International Air Transport Association said.

Qantas shut down its international operations and cut its domestic flying to just 5 per cent of normal levels when the crisis struck last year.

Australia’s almost unparalleled success in stopping the spread of coronavirus should have set the country’s biggest airline up for a rapid return to the skies. But the mammoth task of repairing its finances is facing severe delays, as state governments continue to slam their borders shut at the first sign of any COVID-19 outbreak.

Qantas is also rebuilding itself in a dramatically different landscape. Its main rival Virgin Australia has been revived from administration and reshaped as a leaner and meaner competitor with the backing of private equity giant Bain Capital, while country carrier Regional Express is trying