Qantas plans to operate a once-weekly freighter service from Darwin to Hong Kong that can transport fresh produce from Australia’s Top End to Asia’s supermarket shelves and dining tables.
The proposed service has been scheduled to take off in late August with Boeing 767-300F equipment departing Darwin on Sunday night, Qantas said on Wednesday. The flight would be capable of carrying up to 50 tonnes of cargo such as chilled meat, seafood, dairy, fruit and vegetables.
Qantas Freight chief operating officer Nick McGlynn the new flight would give local producers a quicker route to get their products into Asia.
“Producers throughout the Northern Territory often find themselves transporting large volumes of perishables via road to the east coast to meet a cargo connection to Asia,” McGlynn said on Wednesday.
“This process can take up to five days, which reduces the shelf life of the product when it arrives at its destination,” he said.
“Our direct service is a great alternative for freight customers in and around Darwin. It also shows Qantas’s commitment to providing vital connectivity to Northern Australia.”
Qantas said the new service was being launched with support from Darwin Airport and the Northern Territory government.
The airline’s 767-300F freighter – the only 767 left in the fleet after Qantas retired the passenger variant in December 2014 – mainly flies between Australia and New Zealand on a Sydney-Auckland-Christchurch-Sydney rotation.
Further, flight tracking website FlightAware shows the aircraft VH-EFR also operates a once weekly Sydney-Hong Kong-Sydney rotation. The 767-300F departs Sydney on Sunday afternoon and returns from Hong Kong on Monday morning.
Apart from the 767-300F, Qantas’s freighter fleet also includes BAe 146-300QT and 737-300F used domestically and wet-leased 747-400F aircraft used on international services.
On July 12, the federal government announced it would build a freight and education hub at Darwin Airport as part of its Better Building Regions program.
It said the project would include the construction of an on-airport cold storage facility and upgrades to the airside apron and taxiway to accommodate larger aircraft. There would also be a training and education facility to create opportunities for students to learn about export, freight and logistics for the primary industry sector.