Airlines are adding extra flights out of north Queensland and easing restrictions on changing existing bookings in the wake of the approach of Cyclone Yasi.
Qantas has announced it is putting on two additional flights out of Cairns and Townsville this evening, with Boeing 737s to operate QF1343, departing Cairns at 1835 and arriving in Brisbane at 2045, and QF1341, departing Cairns at 1900 and arriving in Brisbane at 2110. In addition it is upgrading this evening’s QF977 service from Townsville to Brisbane from a 737 to a 767, providing an extra 85 seats.
“Qantas is closely monitoring weather conditions and potential operational impacts on airports in Queensland and will make further decisions about services to Cairns and Townsville as the situation develops,” the airline said in a statement.
Jetstar is also ramping up its flight schedule in north Queensland after arranging four extra flights out of Cairns and Hamilton Island. Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway has told news service AAP that both flights out of Hamilton Island today were full with 350 tourists bound for Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, while another 350 were expected to leave Cairns later today.
According to reports all flights out of Cairns and Townsville were full this morning, with Townsville, Mackay, Hamilton Island and Proserpine airports all expected to close after the last aircraft fly out this evening. Cairns airport will most likely close tomorrow morning.
Subject to certain conditions, Qantas has offered customers holding a valid ticket the chance to make any changes to pre-booked flights to or from Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Hamilton Island and Moranbah for travel up to and including February 6. Jetstar and Virgin Blue are also offering passengers with north Queensland bookings a similar alternative.
Meanwhile, 205 Cairns hospital patients are to be flown out to Brisbane tonight on medivac-equipped RAAF C-130s.
Yasi, a category four cyclone, is predicted to cross the Queensland coastline near Cairns early on Thursday morning, with destructive winds of 250km/h or more.