Tough border restrictions in Western Australia have forced the airline to seek out an alternative to Perth for the Kangaroo Route.
Qantas now plans to operate its flagship direct route from Australia to London via Darwin when international flights resume next month. The carrier has reached an agreement with the Northern Territory government and Darwin Airport to temporarily reroute its flights from Melbourne and Sydney through Darwin. The arrangement will be in place from mid-November until at least April 2022, when London flights are scheduled to operate via Perth again. While this is meant as a temporary measure, Qantas says it is open to future changes depending on the performance of the route.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement, “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.”
Flight QF1 will take off from November 14, departing Sydney five times a week at 6:30 p.m., before landing in Darwin at 9:25 p.m. for a brief refueling stop ahead of the 17 hour and 20-minute journey to London Heathrow. Meanwhile, the Melbourne–Darwin–London route is currently scheduled to begin on December 18, but could start earlier depending on discussions with the Victorian Government on shorter quarantine arrangements for returning travelers.
The passenger transit arrangements will be split into two stages to reflect Covid-safe arrangements in the Northern Territory. In stage one, transiting passengers from all Australian states, or those returning from London, will be able to visit the international lounge and shops at Darwin Airport. Passengers traveling from London to Sydney and Melbourne via Darwin who plan to fly onward 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 get to take advantage of the convenient nonstop connection to London.
Coincidentally, Darwin was the jump off point from Australia for the launch of Qantas’ first international flight in 1935 from Brisbane to Singapore via Darwin. The airline says the city was also part of the original 1947 Kangaroo Route between London and Sydney, which took four days and flew from Sydney to Darwin before making further stops in Singapore, Kolkata, Karachi, Bahrain, Cairo, and Castel Benito en route to the British capital.
Due to repatriation flights, this year marks the first time Qantas has operated flights into Darwin Airport from Africa, Asia, Europe, as well as both North and South America, making it the first airport in Australia to have received nonstop flights from all inhabited continents of the world.