Qantas will finally commence international flights to London and Los Angeles on Nov. 1, two weeks earlier than initially planned and some 20 months after the Australian government closed the country’s borders. Further destinations will be added from Dec. 18 including Singapore, Vancouver and Fiji.
The flights, which will be operated by the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners, have also seen an increase in frequency with London served five times per week and Los Angeles four. All flights will be operated from Sydney, New South Wales, with its flagship kangaroo route to London temporarily operating via Darwin until at least April 2022.
This follows a major change in policy by the New South Wales Government who has now abolished the need to home quarantine for seven days for vaccinated travelers on return. The national cabinet has stated that each state can recommence international flights after reaching a vaccination rate of 80%. New South Wales hit this milestone by October 18, but some states are not expected to achieve it until sometime in December. This means residents will effectively be able to travel internationally before they can travel on some domestic flights, with most domestic borders closed at this time.
To the dismay of many, flights are currently only available to fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents. Temporary residents who have also been locked in the country since borders closed will have to wait even longer before they can board a flight to see loved ones. Some are very angry that they won’t have the chance to travel home for the holidays with citizens and permanent residents given preference. Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said the next priority would be skilled migrants and international students with tourists unlikely to be allowed into the country until March or later.
Qantas is also planning a major fleet upgrade. At the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) annual meeting in Boston, Qantas boss Alan Joyce revealed that he will place a multibillion-dollar order for more than 100 new aircraft by the middle of next year to replace its aging domestic fleet, as well as for new long-haul aircraft to fly non-stop to England and the U.S.
A decision on aircraft type will possibly be made by December with the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320 in contention to replace Boeing 737-800s. Airbus A220s and Embraer E-Jet E2s are being considered to replace the Boeing 717s in the 90-130 seat market. Deliveries are expected to be between 2023 and 2034.
The Australian national carrier will also likely make an order for the Airbus A350-1000 early next year as Project Sunrise is reinstated. Qantas was very close to putting pen to paper just prior to Covid-19 and will use the aircraft to connect the largest Oceanic country with non-stop flights to London and New York.
Meanwhile, Qantas has gone back to the airline’s origins opening new routes between Queensland and the Northern Territories. Australia’s first airline was founded in 1920 as Queensland and Northern Territories Aerial Services and has recently announced new routes from Darwin to Cairns and Townsville.
The routes will be operated by Embraer E190s after a deal was struck to utilize the newly acquired Alliance Airlines aircraft. The 94-seat jet will operate under the QantasLink brand from early next year. Its size, range and economics allow more direct options not available with the airline’s current fleet and reduce travel times for customers.