Qantas has resumed its iconic QF1 service to London and, in doing so, has rebooted a tradition going back generations. For the first time in over 18 months, planeloads of Australians are taking off for London again. Lucky London …
QF1 en route to London
With outbound travel bans for Australians lifting on Monday, Qantas is resuming its international services. It’s not a full schedule yet. Instead, the airline is gradually ramping up services. The first Qantas international jet pushed back at Sydney on Monday night after travel restrictions lifted – QF1 to London.
At 18:15, VH-ZNI, a Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner, departed Sydney for the 23 hour plus flight to London. Later that evening, the flight touched down in Darwin for refueling, allowing some passengers to christen the new Qantas lounge there.
Just after 23:00 last night, VH-ZNI took off from Darwin for the 8,607 mile (13,852 kilometer) hop up to London. At the time of publication, the aircraft is flying over Russia. The Dreamliner will continue its sweep over Russia before turning towards London, overflying the Baltic Sea and the north coast of Europe. QF1 is due to land in London around 06:15 on Tuesday morning.
After turning around in London on Tuesday, VH-ZNI will operate QF2 back to Sydney via Darwin. That flight will touch down on Wednesday evening.
Sydney-London flights enjoying strong demand
Qantas has enjoyed strong demand on its first flights in and out of London. An airline spokesperson told Simple Flying most seats on their 236 seat Dreamliner London flights were filled.
Initially planning to run up to five return flights a week from Sydney to London from November 1, demand is such the airline has added around ten extra return flights this month.
Demand in and out of Melbourne isn’t as strong. After flagging London flights from the Victorian capital would start on November 6, lackluster demand saw the first London-bound flight from Melbourne recently pushed back to November 27.
QF1 was one of two Qantas international departures from Sydney on Monday. Three and a half hours after QF1 left, QF11 departed for Los Angeles. Earlier on Monday, QF12 from Los Angeles made a splash locally when it was the first Qantas regularly scheduled international flight to touch down in a very long time.
Snap border reopenings take airlines and passengers by suprise
The relatively sudden decision to relax quarantine restrictions and limits on the number of passengers allowed to fly in has caught most airlines and prospective passengers on the hop. While opening previously closed seat inventory on already scheduled flights is relatively easy, laying on extra flights takes time.
Sydney Airport is expecting just 14 international arrivals on Tuesday and 15 departures. Qantas has no international flights scheduled in or out of Sydney on the day. Sydney Airport expects passenger services and volumes are expected to build in the months ahead.
While Qantas is reporting good loads on their London flights, other flights in and out of Sydney across all airlines are relatively lightly loaded. The short notice regarding border reopenings and bitter experience with canceled flights have many prospective flyers watching and waiting to see how everything goes.
On an airline seat capacity basis, Sydney Airport says the recovery is expected to reach 16% of pre-COVID international seat capacity by the end of November, increasing to nearly 40% in January 2022.
“Aviation was the first industry into the crisis and will be one of the last to recover, but it’s terrific to say the start of that recovery is finally here,” Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said on Monday.