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Qantas and Jetstar update Flight schedules as State Borders set to reopen

The Qantas Group, which comprises of Qantas and JetStar, has updated its flying schedule in response to the reopening plans and latest border assumptions in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.

The changes that the group is making include:

  • Bringing forward the reopening date for travel between Victoria and New South Wales from 1st December 2021 to 5th November 2021, based on Victoria’s reopening plan.
  • Delaying the restart of domestic flying between Western Australia and Victoria / New South Wales by two months to 1st February 2022, based on border assumptions.
  • “Significantly” increasing regional flying within New South Wales from 25th October 2021, in line with the State Government’s roadmap, to around 40% of pre-COVID levels.

Qantas states that it will continue to operate 5-weekly flights between Perth and both Sydney and Melbourne ‘to maintain minimum connections for those with permits to travel’.

Note that there is no change to Qantas or Jetstar flights between Western Australia (WA), Tasmania, Northern Territory and South Australia. Flights between WA and Queensland will increase once border restrictions are removed, hopefully in the coming weeks, states Qantas. The group also states that it is ready to adjust its schedules in response to changes by states as various restrictions ease in the weeks ahead.

Another good news is that international flights are still on track to gradually restart from 18th December 2021 onwards when Australia is expected to have reached National Cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80%.

The major change will be that Qantas will temporarily reroute its flagship Perth-London service until at least April 2022 due to the latest WA border settings and assumptions. The Sydney-based carrier says that it is in detailed discussions with the Northern Territory’s (NT) Government and Darwin Airport to assess operating the direct London flight from Darwin during this time. The national carrier of Australia has successfully used Darwin as a hub for its repatriation flights to various destinations across Europe, Asia and the Middle East over the past year.

The discussions for what would be a daily Melbourne-Darwin-London service focus on the logistics of domestic and international transit under the current NT Government Plan for COVID-Management at Stage 3 of the National Plan. If the flights can’t operate through Darwin, Qantas will instead fly Melbourne-Singapore-London until at least April 2022. The carrier states that a decision on the exact routing is likely to be made within the next 2 weeks.

Alan Joyce, CEO, Qantas Group, said:

It’s great to see plans firming up for some domestic borders opening given the success of the national vaccine rollout. 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, which is great news for tourism as well as family and friends who can’t wait to see each other again. Get ready to see some emotional reunions at airports from late-October onwards.

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Regarding the reopening of borders of WA, Alan said:

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. We will maintain a minimum service for people with permits to travel, though, as we have throughout the pandemic. At this stage, WA doesn’t intend to open to international travel until sometime next year, so we’ll unfortunately have to temporarily move our Perth-London service until at least April 2022. Instead of operating from Melbourne to Perth and then on to London as it usually does, this flight will operate from Melbourne to London via either Darwin or Singapore, depending on conversations we’re having with the NT in the coming weeks. We look forward to operating this flight via Perth again when circumstances allow.

Alan added:

We’re in regular discussions with all the states and territories, and will continue to make adjustments, including increasing flying as soon as border settings allow. The pace of the vaccine rollout means we’re still on track for international flying to restart from 18 December onwards. People are clearly keen to travel. We saw a 175 per cent spike in web searches in the week after we announced our plans and we’ve seen strong bookings for December and January for our flights to London, Los Angeles and Singapore in particular. The key factor in determining the ongoing demand level for international flying will be what the quarantine arrangements are for Australians when they return. The seven day home quarantine trial in New South Wales is a great step forward and we’re hoping the system evolves quickly for vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries to not have to quarantine on arrival, particularly given Australia itself is on track to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. That’s fast becoming the standard between many countries overseas. The reason we’re putting a lot of sale fares in the market as more domestic destinations open up is to help fast track the recovery by stimulating demand and getting our people back to work sooner. Jetstar sold thousands of $20 fares from Melbourne to Sydney, Byron Bay and Newcastle within hours of going on sale this week. This is good news for the tourism industry, which has taken such a huge hit throughout the crisis.

Qantas says that passengers will be eligible for a refund, credit voucher or to change the date of their travel should State or Federal roadmaps change, and flights are cancelled.

Qantas recently started rewarding passengers who are fully vaccinated. Regarding this, the airline states that more than 400,000 fully vaccinated Australians have so far claimed their vaccination reward and gone into the draw for eight prizes of a year’s worth of flights, accommodation and fuel. Almost three quarters have chosen 1000 Qantas Points as their reward, adding almost 300 million points to frequent flyers’ accounts. The rewards are open to Australians who are fully vaccinated by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Qantas has announced the resumption of flights to Proserpine for the first time in seven years and has also announced a significant domestic expansion including deploying its Boeing B787 Dreamliners on some domestic routes. The airline has resumed flights to Burnie too and will require all of its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Qantas is rewarding its Australian Frequent Flyers who are fully vaccinated in order to support vaccination and has outlined strategy for resumption of international flights. The airline’s joint business plan with Japan Airlines has been blocked by Australia’s Competition Commission. Qantas has launched nonstop flights between Adelaide and Townsville too.

Featured image by Qantas

What do you think of Qantas and Jetstar’s schedule updates? Let me know in the comments section below.

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