Qantas has confirmed it will operate its flagship QF1 direct Kangaroo route from Australia to London via Darwin rather than via Perth when international flights resume in mid-November with the reopening of Australia’s border.
The national carrier has reached an agreement with the Northern Territory Government and Darwin Airport to reroute its Melbourne and Sydney flights through Darwin temporarily.
The Darwin hub arrangement will begin when the international border reopens from 14 November 2021 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 says 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 14 November. The Melbourne-Darwin-London route is currently scheduled to start on 18 December 2021 – but could start earlier depending on discussions with the Victorian Government on shorter quarantine arrangements for returning travellers.
QF1 will depart Sydney five times a week at 6.30 pm, land in Darwin at 9.25 pm for a brief refuelling stop ahead of the 13,800km, 17-hour, 20-minute direct journey to London’s Heathrow airport.
All flights will be on Qantas 787-9 Dreamliners with a total flying time of 23-hours and 20-minutes.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the new route via Darwin would be made possible due to the support from the Northern Territory Government.
“The NT Government has worked closely with us to make these flights happen and I’d like to thank the Chief Minister and his team for finding a solution that is safe and streamlined.”
Mr Joyce added, “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.
“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 tangible tourism boost for the city.
Darwin-based customers will also be able to book the direct flight meaning a convenient non-stop connection to London.
Darwin was the jump-off point from Australia for the launch of the national carrier’s first international flight in 1935 from Brisbane to Singapore via Darwin.
Darwin was also part of the original 1947 Kangaroo Route between London and Sydney which took four days and flew from Sydney to Darwin and then onwards to Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Bahrain, Cairo and Castel Benito before landing in London.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said, “Darwin is Australia’s comeback capital, and now we’re taking the comeback direct to Europe.
“From Parap to Piccadilly, the opportunities are endless. The convenience of this route will mean tapping into brand new markets for tourism and business.
“It will also open up new opportunities for developing the aviation skills sector here in the Northern Territory.
“I thank Qantas and the Darwin International Airport for working with us to turn this direct route into reality, which will mark a real turning point for the nation as we work towards the next stages of the National Plan.”
As a result of repatriation flights, this year marks the first time Qantas has operated flights into Darwin Airport from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America, making it the first airport in Australia to have received non-stop flights from all inhabited continents of the world.
Just this week, a Qantas repatriation flight flew 15,020 kilometres and a record-breaking 17 hours and 25 minutes in the air from Buenos Aires to Darwin via Antarctica. The flight was Qantas’ longest ever non-stop flight for which passengers could purchase a ticket.
All passengers on Qantas’ international flights will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognised vaccine (some exemptions for medical reasons and children).
They will also be required to return a negative PCR COVID test at least 48 hours prior to departure and home quarantine for seven days on arrival into New South Wales.
Though the details of what home quarantine will entail, are still to be released by the federal government.
Fares are available via your local Travel Advisor or via www.qantas.com.au
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