Qantas has pushed back its start date for international flights and is pinning its hopes on travel bubbles beyond the arrangement in place with New Zealand.

The major airline has been forced to move back its planned resumption of international passenger operations from the end of October to the end of December.

The decision is in light of the federal government delaying the anticipated time frame for completion of the vaccine rollout to the end of the year and international borders not fully reopening until mid-2022.

“We remain optimistic that additional bubbles will open once Australia’s vaccine rollout is complete to countries who, by then, are in a similar position, but it’s difficult to predict which ones at this stage,” a Qantas spokeswoman said.

“We will keep reviewing these plans as we move towards December and circumstances evolve.”

Qantas had begun taking bookings for all international flights starting October 31.

The airline confirmed customers who made bookings for the October to December period would be directly contacted and issued either a credit, refund or the option to re-book.

Qantas said it would continue to provide overseas repatriation and freight flights while travel remained off the cards.

It noted the international booking levels were relatively low for the period and its increase in domestic operations was crucial to its financial recovery.

“The resurgence of domestic travel remains the most important element of the group’s recovery,” the company said.

Qantas posted an eye-watering interim statutory loss of $1.47bn in February and was banking on a swift vaccine rollout to resume overseas flying.

The national carrier has been one of the hardest hit companies during the coronavirus pandemic, shedding more than 9000 workers since the grounding.

As at February 25, 14,500 Qantas workers remained stood down from normal duties.

Qantas expects its domestic capacity to increase to 107 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by financial year 2022, while its budget carrier Jetstar is anticipated to be at 120 per cent domestic capacity.

Both airlines are using international planes on domestic routes due to the increase in demand.