Qantas eyes return to 100% of pre-COVID capacity by March 2024

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Qantas aircraft are seen on the tarmac at Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne

(Reuters) -Qantas Airways Ltd, Australia's flagship carrier, said on Friday it expects its international capacity to reach about 100% of pre-COVID-19 levels by March 2024, as it plans to add more seats and aircraft to its global network.

The carrier plans to add about 1 million seats to its international network over a 12-month period starting late-October, Qantas said. It has brought back five international aircraft into its fleet in the past six months and will lease two Airbus A330s from Finnair to meet additional capacity.

"The rebound in demand for international travel since borders reopened has been incredibly strong...," CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement, while flagging a mismatch between supply and demand for international flying.

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Qantas swung to a record profit in the first half of this financial year as raging travel demand jacked up fares and earnings.

The airline will need about 300 more pilots and cabin crew by the end of the year to support extra flying, it said.

Qantas said in March it expects to create more than 8,500 highly skilled jobs in Australian aviation over the next decade, including 1,600 new positions for pilots and 4,500 roles for cabin crew.

In a separate statement on Friday, the airline said construction had started on a new flight training centre in Sydney, which would train up to 4,500 Qantas and Jetstar pilots and cabin crew each year from early 2024.

(Reporting by Himanshi Akhand and Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)