Direct flights between Australia and London are set to resume before Christmas after more than 18-months of tough border restrictions. But Qantas is set to operate the flights from Darwin in the far north of Australia rather than Perth because Western Australia wants to keep its COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Qantas confirmed on Monday that the airline planned to reroute its direct flights to London until at least April 2022 because of Western Australia’s reluctance to join the national plan for reopening.
“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,” Joyce said of the situation.
“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,” he continued.
Darwin has been used by Qantas for repatriation flights to Europe and elsewhere throughout the pandemic. The Northern Territory even has a dedicated quarantine facility for returning Australians but under the current plans, international passengers would be allowed to continue on to Melbourne where they would only have to observe a seven day home quarantine.
Whether or not Qantas is allowed to operate through Darwin will depend on whether the Northern Territory’s political leadership allows it to go ahead at Stage 3 of the National Plan for reopening.
If it doesn’t, Qantas is threatening to send its business to Singapore.
“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,” Joyce continued.
The states of Victoria and New South Wales are most likely to reopen to international travellers from December 18 in line with the national plan. Both Queensland and Western Australia are opposed to that timeline and want to see at least 90 per cent of the Australian population double vaccinated before even reopening their borders with other states.
New South Wales is set to move from a system of mandatory hotel quarantine for all international travellers to a seven day home isolation requirement that will be tested out in the weeks ahead for fully vaccinated passengers.
If successful, Qantas hopes home isolation becomes the standard for passengers arriving from low-risk countries. Passengers from higher-risk countries, no matter their vaccination status, could still be required to go into hotel quarantine.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.