As Australia’s biggest states start to chart their way out of lockdown paralysis, Qantas is responding by rebooting some sectors of its domestic network. This includes the all-important flight corridor between Sydney and Melbourne.
Qantas keen to reboot flying in New South Wales
On Monday, the New South Wales Government outlined its path out of lockdowns and movement restrictions. By the end of October, the New South Wales Government will allow fully vaccinated people to freely move around the state, including its capital, Sydney.
As a result, Qantas will significantly increase its regional flying within New South Wales from October 25, 2021. Much of that flying will use QantasLink planes, but key intrastate routes such as Sydney – Coffs Harbour and Sydney – Ballina are set to enjoy a sudden resurgence.
Further south, Victoria is also beginning to work its way out of lockdown after its capital Melbourne became the world’s most locked-down city. Consequently, based on Victoria’s reopening plan, Qantas is bringing forward the reopening date for travel between Victoria and New South Wales from December 1 to November 5, 2021.
The Sydney – Melbourne flight corridor is usually the world’s second busiest. But lately, just a handful of flights operate on the route every day. While a relaxation in interstate travel rules between NSW and Victoria will see traffic significantly increase, it will be some time before this route is restored to its former status, if ever.
“It’s great to see plans firming up for some domestic borders opening given the success of the national vaccine rollout,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on Monday.
“We’re now planning to ramp up flying between Melbourne and Sydney, which is usually the second busiest air route in the world, almost a month earlier than expected. There are also a lot of regional destinations that will open up for the first time since June.”
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Western Australia locked in the Qantas coolroom
Left out in the cold is Western Australia. Not only has Qantas temporarily ditched its capital city, Perth, as the jumping-off point for the nonstop flights between Australia and Japan, but the airline is also in no mood to step up domestic flights there.
Qantas says it will continue to operate five return flights a week between Perth and both Sydney and Melbourne. This will maintain minimum connections for those with permits to travel.
“Based on our discussions with Western Australia, we know their borders won’t be open to New South Wales and Victoria until early next year, so we’ve sadly had to cancel the flying we had planned on those routes in the lead-up to Christmas,” added Mr Joyce. “We will maintain a minimum service for people with permits to travel, though, as we have throughout the pandemic.”
While Qantas says it stands ready to adjust its schedules in response to changes by states as various restrictions ease in the weeks ahead, it isn’t yet prepared to increase flights from either Sydney or Melbourne to Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory, and South Australia.
Alan Joyce didn’t specifically address the issue of Queensland – another state run by isolationist politicians. But there are growing signs Queensland won’t open up to travelers from either Sydney or Melbourne until 2022. That will wipe out a busy southern summer of flying there for Qantas.
In the coming days, competitors Virgin Australia and Rex should announce the upsizing of flight schedules on the Sydney – Melbourne corridor. On Monday, Rex extended its Boeing 737 grounding until October 31. That will give the airline a week to wash the dust off the planes before they resume flying between Australia’s two biggest cities.