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Airport boss’ prediction of when we’ll fly again is bad news for airlines

A former Qantas executive has revealed the order in which he believes different types of air passengers will get back to travelling internationally on a regular basis.

And one group of avid travellers could be waiting for up to a year longer before they begin hopping around the globe again. That could be as late as 2023, which is bad news for airlines.

Simon Hickey spent 11 years in senior positions in the national carrier including running Qantas’ international division.

He said he expected international travel to “rebound strongly” when borders finally reopened.

Now chief executive officer of the under-construction Western Sydney Airport, Mr Hickey defended the $7 billion project and said despite the huge reduction in air travel due to the pandemic he still expected it to become “Australia’s largest gateway airport”.

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Family reunion market first to fly international

Currently, international air travel into and out of Australia is extremely limited. The only international air routes with no restrictions are those to and from New Zealand.

Qantas had hoped international flights could restart from late October. However, the slow rollout of vaccines in could throw a spanner in the works of that plan.

Aviation industry group the International Air Transport Association had initially warned it could take until 2024 to get back to 2019 type levels of air travel. It’s now brought that forecast forward but only if vaccination programs are successful in reopening borders.

At a panel discussion at Thursday’s SMH NSW Infrastructure Summit, Mr Hickey said people were itching to get back in the air.

“Aviation will rebound and will rebound quite strongly,” he told the summit.

Mr Hickey laid out the order in which he expected the leisure, business and family reunion markets to begin flying again.

“When it’s safe to travel again, the very first part of the market that will move is the 25 per cent, that is the family…

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