Qantas has confirmed that it will launch nonstop flights between Darwin and London next month, following an agreement reached with the Northern Territory Government and Darwin airport.
The new Sydney-Darwin-London service will launch on November 14, with Melbourne-Darwin-London set to follow on December 18, although the carrier said that the latter service “could start earlier depending on discussions with the Victorian Government on shorter quarantine arrangements for returning travellers”.
As previously reported, the switching of the carrier’s flagship nonstop flights between Perth and London to depart from Darwin is designed as a temporary move, with the carrier citing “conservative border policies in Western Australia”.
Pointedly CEO Alan Joyce said that the new route via Darwin had been made possible “due to the support from the Northern Territory Government who have been instrumental in helping Qantas facilitate the new route in a post Covid-19 operating environment”.
The Darwin-London service will remain in place until at least April 2022, when flights are scheduled to switch back to Perth, although Qantas said that it will “watch how it [Darwin-London] performs and is open-minded about what it could lead to down the track”.
Flight QF1 will depart Sydney five times a week at 1830, landing into Darwin at 2125 for refuelling ahead of the 13,800km, 17-hour 20 minute direct journey to London’s Heathrow airport.
“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,” said Joyce.
“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.”
Qantas said that 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.
All adult passengers on Qantas’ international flights will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognised vaccine, unless exempted for medical reasons. 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.
Qantas also signalled plans to resume flights from Sydney to Los Angeles in November.
Other international routes are currently scheduled to resume from December 18 as previously reported, although the group said that it 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”.