A Qantas Boeing 737-800 takes off from Sydney's Kingsford Smith airport on November 1, 2019. Photo: AFP / Peter Parks

Australian carrier Qantas reported on Thursday a US$5.5 billion plunge in revenue during the second half of 2020 and said international passenger flights would not resume until October as the pandemic continued to devastate the industry.

The country’s biggest airline said it suffered an underlying pre-tax loss of A$1.03 billion ($814 million) in the six months to December 31, with statutory losses climbing to A$1.47 billion.

“These figures are stark, but they won’t come as a surprise,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

“A year ago, none of us knew just how big an impact Covid would have on the world, or on aviation. It’s clearly worse than anyone expected,” he said.

“Border closures meant we lost virtually 100% of our international flying and 70% of our domestic flying – three-quarters of our revenue – around A$7 billion – went with it.”

Joyce noted that the company had already seen revenue fall A$4 billion during the first half of 2020, bringing the total impact of the pandemic to A$11 billion.

“That is a massive number, probably a bigger number than any other company in Australia is experiencing because of Covid,” he told a news conference.

Joyce pushed back the expected resumption of international passenger flights from July to the end of October, but said the cost of keeping those planes on the ground was largely being offset by increased freight operations.

With Australia’s successful containment of the pandemic, Qantas flagged a return to 60% of pre-Covid domestic capacity by the end of March and 80% by the end of June.

Qantas had posted a US$1.9-billion loss for the year ending June 30 as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the global economy.

Joyce said a total of 8,500 staff would lose their jobs due to the crisis, and another 7,500 would remain suspended until the resumption of international flights.

About 100 planes have also been grounded as part of a A$10 billion cost-cutting blitz and restructuring effort that Qantas said would save it A$1 billion a year from 2023.