First Regular International Flights In 18 Months Start Landing in Sydney

For the first time in over 18 months, regular international flights are landing in Sydney. On Monday, limits on passenger numbers and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travelers were dropped at Sydney, and the first flights have already touched down.

The first regular international Qantas flight from North America in over 18 months touched down in Sydney on Monday morning. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

The tempo picks up at Sydney Airport on Monday

Sixteen international flights are arriving in Sydney on Monday, including flights operated by Qantas, Air New Zealand, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air Niugini, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Aircalin, Vietnam Airlines, Fiji Airways, Emirates, and Cathay Pacific.

That’s not many flights, but Sydney’s international terminal will be the busiest it has been for a long time on Monday. Not only can planes and their passengers come in relatively unhindered, but Australians are finally free to leave the country without asking for permission.

Making an early splash on Monday morning was QF12 from Los Angeles. The Qantas flight landed at 06:00 after nearly 15 hours in the air. It was the first regular Qantas international passenger flight from North America since March 2020. Around 70 passengers were onboard.

“It was amazing to welcome back our passengers, and the whole team was really emotional and excited to be able to take care of them on their journey home,” said Qantas Customer Services Supervisor on QF12, Adrienne Innes.

Qantas pipped to the post by Singapore Airlines

QF12 wasn’t the first flight in. Qantas was pipped to the post by a Singapore Airlines A350-900. SQ221 landed 45 minutes before the Qantas Dreamliner. By the time of publication, flights from Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh, Auckland, San Francisco, and Los Angles will have landed.

International flights continue to land at airports around Australia. But only Sydney and Melbourne have lifted limits on passenger numbers and are allowing fully vaccinated returning Australians to skip quarantine. Compared to Sydney’s 15 inbound international flights, Melbourne is expecting just five inbound international flights on Monday.

According to the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA), around 1,500 people will arrive on Monday’s international flights into Sydney and Melbourne.

The short notice given, with Sydney and Melbourne only recently announcing they were dropping passenger limits and quarantine requirements, is a reason why the first flights are relatively lightly loaded.

“This day has been a long time coming for our people and our customers,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on Monday. “It’s been a very challenging time for our international crew, with many of them stood down since March 2020.”

The crew off SQ221 in Sydney on Monday morning. Photo: Getty Images

Sydney Airport CEO optimistic about the future

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert says Sydney’s international terminal has been a ghost town and has been only operating at 1% of its normal capacity.

“It’s game on from Monday,” Mr Culbert told Sky News. “We’ll be at around 25% of pre-COVID international flying by Christmas. It builds from there as we go into the New Year.”

The well-connected airport boss thinks fully vaccinated tourists to Australia will be touching down in the first quarter of 2022. He says repatriating Australians and getting workers and students back into Australia are the top priorities.

Qantas’ first regular international flight out of Sydney on Monday is the London-bound QF1. That flight is due to depart early evening and will operate via Darwin.