Qantas Airways said today it had pushed back its target for a widespread resumption of international travel from Australia by four months until the end of October, when the country's vaccination programme is expected to conclude. 

The airline grounded its international fleet last March and a domestic recovery has been hampered by state border closures.

This lead to a 75% fall in revenue to A$2.33 billion in the six months to December 31. 

Qantas said today it swung to a $1.03 billion first-half underlying loss before tax, its most closely watched financial measure, compared with a $771m profit a year earlier. 

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce - who hails from Ireland - said it was in close consultation with the Australian government about the outlook for resuming international flights. 

"If things change, so will our dates," Joyce told reporters. "But with the vaccine rollout already underway, we're on the right track and that October date seems sensible and in some ways conservative." 

Australia on Sunday began vaccinating its citizens against Covid-19, having had just under 29,000 infections and 909 deaths since last March, lower than most comparable countries. 

Qantas previously placed international tickets on sale from July 1, but has pushed that back to October 31, with the exception of flights to New Zealand. 

Alan Joyce said Qantas was forecasting international capacity would be only 40% of pre-Covid levels in the 2022 financial year, and a full recovery was not expected until 2024, in line with global estimates. 

Qantas has said it will require international travellers to be vaccinated in order to board flights. 

Qantas CEO Irishman Alan Joyce

In the domestic market, where Qantas normally earns the bulk of its profit, capacity has been running well below pre-pandemic levels due to state border closures that it expects will cost $350-$450m of earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation in the second half. 

The airline forecasts it will operate 80% of its usual domestic capacity in the fourth quarter ending June 30, up from 60% in the third quarter. 

Both Qantas and its low-cost brand Jetstar were cash positive in the first half of the financial year in the domestic market, the airline said. 

Qantas said it had $4.2 billion of liquidity as of December 31 to help it weather ongoing uncertainty in market conditions