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Brisbane-Cairns now busiest Qantas route

written by Adam Thorn | October 21, 2020

A file image of a QantasLink and Alliance Aviation aircraft at Cairns Airport. (Seth Jaworski)
A file image of a QantasLink and Alliance Aviation aircraft at Cairns Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Queensland and WA’s border closures have caused Brisbane-Cairns and Perth-Broome to become the two most popular Qantas routes in the country during the recent school holidays.

Pre-COVID, the three busiest domestic routes were between the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ of flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Queensland opened up to NSW on 10 July but then closed to Sydney again on 1 August, while the NSW-Victoria border shut for the first time on 6 July and the WA border has remained closed to all other states since the start of the crisis.

Data obtained by Traveller from Qantas shows the five busiest routes during the September-October break were:

  1. Brisbane-Cairns (14th last year)
  2. Perth-Broome (20th)
  3. Brisbane-Townsville (11th)
  4. Sydney-Adelaide (8th)
  5. Canberra-Brisbane (17th)

The top three, therefore, were intrastate flights while the latter two are likely a result of SA opening to NSW on 24 September and Queensland to the ACT on 25 September.


Qantas also said flight capacity equalled or exceeded pre-COVID levels on routes including Perth-Broome, Brisbane-Longreach, and Adelaide-Alice Springs.

The business’ domestic chief executive Andrew David said there was a spike in bookings during the holidays that signalled a “positive sign for the whole tourism industry”.

Last week, Australian Aviation reported how Queensland’s decision to reshut its border to NSW bizarrely caused Brisbane to become busier than Sydney by a huge margin.

The knock-on effect of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s restrictions meant Brisbane clocked up 324,188 total passengers in August versus Sydney’s 129,000.

Significantly, the Queensland capital’s numbers were down only slightly from July (358,537) whereas the NSW capital’s collapsed 60 per cent (from 317,000).

“Brisbane is currently the busiest airport in the nation due to strong intrastate travel and an increase in domestic tourism,” said Australian Airports Association chief executive James Goodwin.

Total nationwide domestic passenger traffic, meanwhile, slumped 40 per cent from 1,455,000 in July to a projected 850,000 in August.

“The slight recovery we thought we’d see in June and July was hampered in August because we lost key traffic to and from Victorian airports, which impacted heavily on the performance of Sydney and Canberra airports,” said Goodwin.

Earlier this week, new data also revealed Sydney’s domestic passenger traffic flatlined in September.

In a statement to the ASX, the business said it welcomed 98,000 passengers in September, up only slightly from 91,000 in August and down significantly from 276,000 in July.

Last year’s top five

  1. Melbourne-Sydney
  2. Brisbane-Sydney
  3. Brisbane-Melbourne
  4. Adelaide-Melbourne
  5. Melbourne-Perth

Note: The Qantas data excludes Jetstar flights as well as mining routes.

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Comment (1)

  • OVTraveller


    Compared with the rest of the developed world, Australia’s infection rates are minuscule. It is high time for the respective state premiers to start taking a responsible look at the harm their ‘ caring’ for their populations continues to cause. It is high time for all border restrictions to be lifted and domestic flights to become fully operational between capital cities and other domestic destinations. High Time indeed.

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