Qantas confirmed that it has chosen the northern Australian city of Darwin as the stopover point for flights to London when international flights out of the country resume in November. The carrier says an agreement has been reached with Darwin Airport and the Northern Territory government to “temporarily reroute” its flights from Melbourne and Sydney through Darwin.
This arrangement will be put in place between November 2021 until “at least” April 2022, when flights to London are scheduled to operate via Perth again when Western Australia reopens. It acknowledges that while the route change will be temporary, the carrier will monitor the route’s performance and has expressed an open mind on what this change could lead to next.
The Sydney-Darwin-London route will begin on 14 November, while the Melbourne-Darwin-London route is scheduled to start on 18 December. However, it could bring forward the launch date depending on its discussions with the Victoria state government on shorter quarantine arrangements for returning travelers to Melbourne.
Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce says the Darwin stopover was made possible due to the support by 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,” says Joyce. “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 carrier indicates that passenger transit arrangements will be split into two stages. For stage one, passengers from the Australian states or coming in from London transiting in Darwin Airport will be able to visit its international lounge and shops. The second stage allows transit passengers the option to leave Darwin Airport to visit the city.
It is also allowing Darwin-based passengers to book a Darwin-London flight.
Qantas on 1 October said that the Sydney-Los Angeles flight will resume alongside the Sydney-Darwin-London route. The carrier reiterated that all other international routes scheduled to resume from 18 December will continue as planned, while adding it has the flexibility to add more routes should other Australian states and territories chose to open their borders earlier and reduce quarantine requirements to seven days at home, or less.
Fiji Airways Airbus A350-900, here on static display at the 2019 Dubai Airshow. (Richard Schuurman)
Fiji Airways returns to commercial flying on 1 December, with MAX flights scheduled
Meanwhile, Fiji Airways announced that it will resume commercial flying on 1 December. As part of the resumption, the carrier will deploy Airbus A330s and A350s, as well as Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on international flights out of Nadi to points in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United States.
The deployment of the MAX comes eight months after the carrier in April confirmed the acceptance of return-to-service requirements of the type by the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF). Approval by CAAF followed that of Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand.
The carrier’s resumption of flights in December comes after Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama announced a travel framework that will allow Fiji to reopen its borders to tourists from 1 December. All arriving travelers must be fully vaccinated, provide proof of a negative RT-PCR test before boarding, and complete an additional rapid test at their pre-booked resort or hotel upon arrival before starting their quarantine-free holiday.
“After almost two years of no tourism, we are more than ready to safely welcome back international travelers from 1st December and greet them with our famous Fijian hospitality. Fiji’s entire tourism industry has been waiting for this,” says Fiji Airways managing director and chief executive Andre Viljoen.