Aussie carriers have reacted to the reopening of the NSW-Victoria border by announcing a number of additional flights between the two states.
Qantas and Jetstar will operate a combined 17 return flights between Sydney and Melbourne today, carrying around 4,500 people.
During the lockdown, flights on the route dropped to as low as one flight per day on what has historically been the busiest air route in the country and the second busiest in the world.
This marks the first time Victorians are able to travel anywhere interstate without quarantine since July which, for thousands of people, will mean seeing family after months of being apart.
Qantas is also kicking off a new route between Sydney and Mildura today, which was originally due to start in March, and flights between Sydney and Bendigo will resume in early December.
Jetstar will resume regular flights between Melbourne and Newcastle and Ballina (Byron Bay) this week.
Qantas has also offered to extend the frequent flyer status of hundreds of thousands of its members for another 12 months.
To qualify for the extension – and retain the various benefits that come with each membership tier – members facing expiry in 2021 simply need to book a Qantas-operated flight between now and their current tier expiry date for travel until the end of 2021.
This follows an automatic 12-month extension that was provided to Qantas Frequent Flyers at the start of the pandemic, as travel restrictions prevented members from being able to do the flying necessary to retain their Silver, Gold, Platinum or Platinum One status.
By early December, Qantas Frequent Flyers will have access to 30 of the 35 domestic and regional lounges across the airline’s network.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that after a “very tough year for a lot of people”, the reopening of the NSW-Victoria border was a big milestone in Australia opening back up.
“It’s going to be a really emotional day for a lot of our passengers,” he said.
“We’re going to see the kind of reunions normally reserved for long-haul international flights rather than two cities that are only an hour apart.
“It’s a great day for a lot of our people, who have been stood down for months. They have been so professional through all this and we’re thrilled to see more of them coming back to work.
“The Melbourne-to-Sydney route is normally the busiest on our network. During lockdown, it was down to just one flight a day. We’re still a long way off having it back to full strength, but the sharp rebound in travel demand we’re seeing gives us a lot of confidence.”
Virgin seeing “strong uptake” of Melbourne-Sydney flights
From today, Virgin Australia will operate four return services per day (28 per week) between Melbourne and Sydney (both ways), and progressively increase frequencies ahead of the Christmas holidays.
Customers from Victoria will also be able to connect to regional NSW destinations such as Ballina Byron and Coffs Harbour.
With the ACT government following NSW in easing its border restrictions for Victorians, Virgin will increase frequencies between Melbourne and Canberra to four-times weekly from today.
From tomorrow, the airline will bring forward the re-introduction of four-times-weekly services between Melbourne and Newcastle. The service was originally scheduled to be re-introduced from 15 December.
By Christmas, Virgin Australia will have more than 20,000 seats per week available for booking both ways between Melbourne and Sydney.
Virgin is also offering one-way introductory fares (including baggage, seat selection and Velocity Frequent Flyer points) from as low as $119 on 10 routes between NSW and Victoria.
“The aviation and tourism industries rely on a connected nation and we’re elated that Victoria is now open to New South Wales,” A Virgin spokesperson said.
“Victorians should be proud of their efforts to control COVID-19 and today is a day to be celebrated.
“We’re seeing some strong uptake on flights between Melbourne and Sydney, and we expect this to continue as we move closer to Christmas.
“We know many Australians are excited to reunite with their loved ones, and we remain hopeful that borders will continue to safely re-open and more Australians return to the skies in time for Christmas.”
Featured image source: iStock/ai_yoshi