“While our business has been challenged like never before by COVID-19, the launch of these flights is another step towards a recovery and getting more of our people back flying again."
Australia’s major airline Qantas, which shed 20% of its workforce late last month, today launches two new routes to regional NSW, Australia, helping to try and reboot the local tourism industry in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
With Australia keeping its borders closed to all international travellers, Australians are being urged to holiday within their own states and territories.
The first Qantas flight between Sydney and Byron Bay (Ballina Airport) in 15 years departed this morning and the airline has confirmed its first ever flights to the beautiful city of Orange in central west NSW will start on 20 July.
As travel restrictions start to ease domestically, Qantas and Jetstar will increase domestic and regional flying for June and July, with more than 300 additional return flights per week by the end of June. Read more: https://t.co/iW5sNBpPtZ pic.twitter.com/DNO3HM2p57
— Qantas (@Qantas) June 4, 2020
NSW has had seven new community cases of COVID-19 in the past four weeks and carried out 324,303 tests. The neighbouring state of Victoria on Wednesday recorded the 15th straight day of double-digit increases in the number of new cases of COVID-19, and one of the highest daily counts (73) since the pandemic began. From 11:59pm on Wednesday, about 311,000 residents in 10 Melbourne postcodes will be restricted from leaving their home, except for essential purposes, until at least 29 July.
14 new cases of #COVID19 were diagnosed between 8pm on 29 June and 8pm on 30 June.
All of today’s new cases are returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
There are currently 63 COVID-19 cases being treated by NSW Health, with one in intensive care. pic.twitter.com/FNoIXsUfZ0
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 1, 2020
The additional routes are part of the gradual ramping up of domestic flights for Qantas and its discount airline Jetstar, which could reach 40% of pre-Coronavirus capacity levels this month. Both routes were originally scheduled to start earlier this year but were delayed due to the coronavirus and travel restrictions, Qantas said in a statement.
Queensland, which borders NSW to the north, will open its borders to all states except Victoria on 10 July. South Australia’s borders with Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory were reopened last month. Western Australia is keeping its borders closed, while the island of Tasmania has said it will reopen its borders of 24 July.
QantasLink CEO John Gissing said a recent increase in bookings demonstrates there is significant pent up demand for Australians to take a holiday after months of lockdown.
“As the national carrier we have an important role to play in driving tourism and reviving the industry that has been devastated by COVID-19,” Gissing said.
“These additional flights are coming at the right time for families who’ve spent much of the recent months confined to their homes and are looking forward to getting out and exploring their own State.
“While our business has been challenged like never before by COVID-19, the launch of these flights is another step towards a recovery and getting more of our people back flying again.”
Gissing said the new services from Sydney will help connect local travellers to the ever-popular coastal hub of Byron Bay and Orange’s renowned food and wine scene.
“Byron Bay continues to be an incredibly popular destination for holidaymakers of all types, and was one of the most in demand destinations for Qantas and Jetstar over the past month,” he said.
“After years of locals calling for the flying kangaroo to fly to Orange, the iconic red tail will touch down there for the first time in a few weeks. We are bringing much needed competition to the route, which has been a monopoly for many years.
“These flights to Orange will make it easier for Sydney residents to discover one of NSW’s most beautiful regions and its world-class restaurants and wineries.”
NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, said the new services would make it easier than ever for NSW residents to take a country, city or coastal break.
“Tourism is a key industry for NSW’s North Coast, the wine region of Orange and our Harbour City, so these new flights will provide a lifeline for local communities, and a critical link for all travellers,” Ayres said.
“Now there are even more reasons to love NSW with easy access to our pristine beaches, world-class food and wine, and an unforgettable picture-perfect city. We encourage anyone who can take a holiday to book their next NSW adventure now to enjoy these idyllic locations and beyond while supporting tourism businesses at the same time.”
QantasLink will operate daily return flights between Sydney and Byron Bay (Ballina) with its Q400 aircraft. The flights are in addition to Jetstar’s flights from Melbourne and Sydney.
The airline will operate three weekly return services between Sydney and Orange on its Q200 aircraft from 20 July, with plans to increase frequency later in the year.
Customers now have greater flexibility when they book, with the ability to change the date of their flight once, without paying a change fee. Customers will have to cover any fare increase (if relevant) for the new booking.
All customers are also encouraged to download the Australian Government’s COVIDSafe app and anyone with cold and flu like symptoms should stay at home.