Today is the day, folks! Australia’s travel ban has officially lifted and so too have Qantas’ first overseas passenger flights in nearly 600 days.
QF12 from Los Angeles touched down in Sydney at 6am today, followed by Singapore Airlines’ SQ221 from Singapore at 6:05am and Japan Airlines’ JL51 from Tokyo at 6:30am with no border or quarantine restrictions for fully-vaccinated travellers.
The first flight to arrive in Australia this morning was Singapore Airlines’ SQ212, which landed in Sydney at 9:05am, followed by United Airlines’ UA842 from LA at 10:20am and Delta’s DL40 also from LA at 11:20am.
QF1 (Sydney to London via Darwin) will be the first Qantas International flight to depart out of Sydney at 6.30pm.
While the national carrier has flown hundreds of federal government repatriation flights during the pandemic, and operated under a temporary border bubble arrangement with New Zealand earlier this year, these are the first regular Qantas international passenger flights after the Australian and NSW governments relaxed restrictions on overseas travel.
“Today some of the magic returned to our arrival halls; grandparents meeting grandkids for the first time, families reuniting, all of the scenes that have been absent for far too long,” Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said.
“It’s also an incredibly important day for the 800 organisations and thousands of people who work at the airport. Quarantine-free travel means that shops can re-open, businesses can bring people back, and we can all start the process of recovering from the worst crisis in the history of aviation.
“Every daily A380 service brings with it $200 million in annual economic activity and 2,100 jobs, and we are looking forward to welcoming plenty of them soon.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of the recovery of our sector, but allowing fully vaccinated Australians to travel without quarantine will provide the template for bringing back students, business travellers, and tourists from all over the world.”
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said this day has been a long time coming for the airline’s people and customers.
“It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with loved ones after such a long time apart,” Joyce said.
“It’s been very challenging time for our international crew, with many of them stood down since March 2020.
“We are in the process of standing up our Australian-based team members who are excited to get back to doing what they love.”
Virgin Australia’s international services are scheduled to resume with the first flight to Nadi, Fiji taking off from Sydney on 16 December, however, Velocity Frequent Flyer will release the first tranche of its international ‘earn and burn’ partnerships tonight.
By leveraging Velocity’s partnerships with seven global airlines and Virgin Australia’s own international network, the airline group will open up travel for members to hundreds of destinations.
The network of available destinations will go live in stages as restrictions ease and international travel resumes.
From 11.59pm AEDT Monday 1 November, Velocity members can redeem their Points for bookings on Reward Seats and earn Velocity Points and Status Credits for eligible regular fares on selected flights with Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and South African Airways.
Travel dates will vary for each carrier and Reward Seat and route availability is expected to grow in line with international travel demand returning to the market.
Singapore Airlines will be next to offer Velocity members Reward Seats as the airline expands its network and services to and from Australia. Meanwhile, Velocity members will continue to earn Points and Status Credits when travelling on eligible revenue bookings made with the carrier.
Virgin also expanded its domestic network on Friday by kicking off its services between Hobart and Perth.
Flights between the two cities will operate three times per week, allowing for up to 4,200 passengers to travel each month.
The news follows last week’s commencement of services between Hobart and Adelaide which is now operating four times per week and allowing up to 5,600 additional passengers to fly each month.
Virgin Australia experienced a 90 per cent increase in Tasmanian bookings compared to the previous week after the announcement of new services to the Apple Isle and the Tasmanian Government’s release of a recovery roadmap.
Since September, Virgin Australia has added 12 additional domestic routes to its network and is scheduled to resume flights to Bali and New Zealand from early next year.
Featured image source: iStock/jacoblund