Qantas has operated its first quarantine-free international passenger flights, following almost 600 days of strict border restrictions.

Australia has lifted a ban on its citizens travelling overseas, with fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents no longer needing to apply for an exemption to leave the country.

Flight QF12 from Los Angeles landed in Sydney at 0600, with fully vaccinated passengers on board no longer having to undergo quarantine requirements upon arrival in Australia. The flight landed just after Singapore Airlines’ flight SQ221 from Singapore.

Additionally, flight QF1 departed Sydney for London via Darwin at 1830. The airline is operating flights between Sydney and London and Los Angeles, with flights to further destinations “relaunching in the coming weeks”.

Initially these flights will be limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents in line with Australian Government requirements.

All passengers on these flights are required to be fully vaccinated, though travellers under the age of 12 and those aged 12-17 travelling to Australia with their family or guardian are exempt.

Qantas brought forward its resumption of international flights following the decision by Federal and New South Wales governments to open borders from the start of the month. The airline had carried out repatriation flights during the pandemic, and also operated under a temporary border bubble arrangement with New Zealand earlier in the year.

Commenting on the news Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said:

“This day has been a long time coming for our people and our customers. It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with loved ones after such a long time apart.

“It’s been very challenging time for our international crew, with many of them stood down since March 2020. We are in the process of standing up our Australian-based team members who are excited to get back to doing what they love.

“We are back in the air earlier than anticipated thanks to the millions of people who turned out in droves to get vaccinated. This made it possible for the Federal, and NSW and Victorian governments to open up Australia’s borders and remove quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers.

“International travel may be a little different for a while with some new requirements and guidelines in place, but one thing that hasn’t changes is Qantas’ commitments to safety and premium service. We are absolutely thrilled to welcome everyone back on board.”