Qantas’ direct route from Australia to London will operate via Darwin when international flights resume next month.
The carrier is to temporarily re-route its flights from Melbourne and Sydney via Darwin instead of Perth with the reopening of Australia’s borders.
The Darwin hub arrangement will be in place in time for borders reopening from mid-November until at least April 2022 when London flights are scheduled to operate via Perth again.
While this is a temporary change to the route, Qantas said it will watch how it performs and is “open-minded” about what it could lead to down the track.
The Sydney-Darwin-London route will begin on November 14 while the Melbourne-Darwin-London route is currently scheduled to begin on December 18 but could start earlier depending on discussions on shorter quarantine arrangements for returning travellers.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the new route via Darwin will be made possible due to the support from the Northern Territory government.
“The kangaroo route is one of the most iconic on the Qantas international network and we are delighted that Darwin will play a vital role in Australia’s post pandemic reopening to the world,” he said.
“Qantas has been flying repatriation services from London to Darwin as part of the airline’s efforts to help bring Australians home over the past 12 months, so our pilots already have extensive experience operating this particular route.”
The passenger transit arrangements will be split into two stages to reflect Covid-safe arrangements in the Territory itself.
In stage one, transiting passengers from all Australian states, or returning from London, will be able to visit the international lounge and shops at Darwin Airport.
Passengers travelling from London to Sydney and Melbourne via Darwin and wanting to travel onwards to other Australian cities may also be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.
In stage two, transiting passengers will have the option to leave the terminal and visit Darwin, providing a tourism boost for the city.
Qantas will restart flights from Sydney to Los Angeles in November.
All other international routes that were scheduled to resume from December 18 will continue as planned, although the company has the flexibility to add additional routes if other states and territories decide to open their borders earlier and reduce quarantine requirements to seven days at home, or less.