The northern Australian city of Darwin continues to enjoy flavor of the month status with Qantas. Last week the airline confirmed its flagship QF1 service to London would use Darwin as a jumping-off point. Today, Qantas confirmed it is adding flights from the Queensland cities of Townsville and Cairns to Darwin.
Qantas will use its leased Embraer E190 jets to fly the two sectors several times a week from early 2022. The airline says the new services will increase direct options across northern Australia and reduce travel time for passengers.
A renewed focus on Northern Australia from Qantas
In days gone by, Qantas flew between Cairns and Darwin, often via Gove or Groote Eylandt. In recent years, it has left the route to subsidiary low-cost airline Jetstar. Qantas has also long left the Townsville-Darwin sector to Darwin-based Airnorth. But Qantas has moved onto a raft of regional domestic routes in the last 18 months, and Thursday’s announcement continues that trend.
“We’re pleased to be creating stronger connections between these great parts of Australia with two new routes,” said QantasLink CEO John Gissing.
“These routes will help more travelers discover the incredible Northern Territory, helping local businesses in their recovery from the impact of COVID. We’ll also be promoting the Territory to tourists from London and beyond when transiting passengers on our international flights have the option to visit Darwin down the track.”
Early morning departures from Darwin
Commencing January 31, 2022, QF1993 will depart Darwin (DRW) every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 06:40 for the two-hour and 50-minute flight east to Townsville (TSV), landing there are 09:50.
The return sector, QF1994, will depart Townsville on the same days at 10:30 and arrive in Darwin at 12:50.
Townsville Airport CEO Chris Mills says it is the first time in more than 20 years Qantas has flown between his airport and Darwin. He says it will add another 30,000 seats annually to his airport and expand another market for Townsville and the Northern Territory.
“This service will deliver more travelers, particularly during the dry season, and for business travelers year-round,” he said.
Commencing March 29, QF1995 will push back from Darwin at 06:30 every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday and head over to Cairns, touching down there at 08:55. It will take one hour and 55-minutes to cover the 1,042 miles (1,677 kilometers) between the two cities.
The flight back to Darwin, QF1996, operates on the same days, leaving Cairns at 09:50 and getting into Darwin at 11:50.
Northern Territory Minister for Tourism Natasha Fyles welcomed the extra flights, saying they indicate the strength of Qantas’ confidence in the outlook for the Territory tourism sector in 2022.
“We anticipate a strong domestic tourism market next year,” the minister said.
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Not a feeder service for Qantas’ London flights
Qantas is using its increasingly handy Embraer E190 jets on both routes. The 94 seat two cabin class jets are fast carving a niche for themselves, flying in and out of Australia’s northern cities. Routes like Townsville to Darwin might be too skinny for Qantas’ 174 seat Boeing 737-800s, but they are a perfect match for the nifty Embraers.
For the time being, what these new flights are not are feeder services for the Darwin-London flights. Putting aside the length of any layover at Darwin Airport, Qantas is not planning to pick up or drop off passengers in Darwin from QF1/2, using the city as a refueling pitstop only.
That may change down the track, but initially, these two new routes will work best for passengers needing to zip between the north Queensland coast and the Northern Territory capital.