Thu. May 19th, 2022

Everyone expected that the form of international travel would be different when overseas flights resumed, but few people – if indeed any – could have predicted this.

When Qantas restarts its flights from Sydney-London and Melbourne-London in the coming months, the airline says it will both operate via Darwin, where the NT capital is completed for Singapore – in the case of the Sydney QF1 / QF2 service – and Perth (Melbourne’s QF9 / QF10).

This week, the airline reached an agreement with the Northern Territory Government and Darwin Airport to temporarily divert its flights from Melbourne and Sydney through Darwin.

“The Darwin hub event will be in place in time for the reopening of borders from 14 November 2021 to at least April 2022, when London flights are scheduled to run via Perth again,” the airline confirmed in a statement issued tonight .

“While this is a temporary change of route, Qantas will see how it performs and have an open mind about what it can lead to down the track.”

The NT government describes the event as creating “a travel bubble at the terminal at Darwin International Airport for passengers traveling from Melbourne and Sydney to London via Darwin.”

Darwin-based passengers will also be able to book the direct QF1 or QF9 flights to London.

Sydney-Darwin-London from 14 November

Sydney-Darwin-London flights start on 14 November and the Melbourne-Darwin-London route is currently scheduled to start on 18 December 2021 – although this may also start earlier, depending on the outcome of Qantas’ discussions with the Victorian government on shorter quarantine arrangements for returning travelers.

“The Kangaroo route is one of the most iconic on Qantas’ international network, and we are delighted that Darwin will play a key role in Australia’s post-pandemic reopening the world,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

“Qantas has flown repatriation services from London to Darwin as part of the airline’s efforts to help bring the Australians home over the last 12 months, so our pilots already have extensive experience operating this particular route.”

Perth reportedly ruled itself out of running because of Western Australia’s insistence on keeping its borders closed until state Prime Minister Mark McGowan has said it could be March or April 2022.

Singapore – which has long been the well-known stopover for Qantas’ Kangaroo Route – will also be skipped, probably due to problems with transit events at Changi Airport, although Qantas did not provide any explanation or comment on that front.

The new Darwin-centric QF1 starts from 14 November 2021 and departs from Sydney five times a week at 18.30; it lands in Darwin at 9.25pm ​​for a short tank stop ahead of the 13,800km journey to Heathrow in London.

How Darwin stopover will work

So what does this mean for travelers flying between Sydney or Melbourne and London via Darwin?

Qantas says passenger transfer schemes will be divided into two phases to reflect Covid-secure events in the territory itself.

In the first stage, which will presumably start with QF1 on 14 November, passengers from all Australian states – or returning from London – will be able to visit Darwin Airport’s international Catalina Lounge as well as shops and cafés in the international terminal.

Qantas has not yet advised on lounge eligibility or access to the Catalina Lounge.

Passengers traveling from London to Sydney and Melbourne via Darwin and wishing to travel on to other Australian cities may also be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.

In step two — for which Qantas has not shared a time frame, but may be based on an NT vaccination threshold — transit passengers will have the option of leaving the terminal and visiting Darwin, giving a top-notch tourist boost to the city.

As previously and extensively reported, all passengers on international Qantas flights must be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognized vaccine (with the exception of some exceptions for medical reasons and children).

They will also be required to return a negative PCR covid test at least 48 hours before departure and, when returning to News South Wales, spend seven days in home quarantine.

Also read: When Australia’s borders reopen, will travel insurance cover Covid-19?


David Flynn is the editor-in-chief of Executive Traveler and a bit of a tragic journey with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and litchi martini.

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