Qantas and Jetstar will increase the amount of flights per week between Victoria and NSW from just 10 to 250 when the border opens.
The new services, across five routes, will return the business to 40 per cent pre-pandemic capacity and mean more employees can return to work.
On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced NSW would become the first state to remove movement restrictions to Victoria on 23 November. She told reporters the decision is a “calculated risk” but that it was important to “keep moving forward”.
Currently, the Qantas Group is only operating flights between Sydney and Melbourne but later this month that will include services to and from Ballina Byron Bay, Mildura, Newcastle and Bendigo. The full details are at the bottom of this article.
Andrew David, chief executive of the group’s domestic and international operations, said the news was great for business and getting people back to work.
“Pre-COVID, Melbourne-Sydney was the busiest air route in Australia and the second busiest in the world,” said David. “On a busy day, Qantas and Jetstar would operate more than 100 flights per day between New South Wales and Victoria. During the lockdown, our schedule reduced to as low as one flight a day.
“New South Wales has led the way in taking a sensible, risk-based approach to borders that’s supported by what is probably one of the best contact tracing programs in the world. It’s great to see New South Wales and Victoria working together on what is a national issue.
“Queensland and Western Australia are unfortunately taking a different approach, which doesn’t seem based on a realistic assessment of risk.”
On Wednesday, Premier Berejiklian came good on an earlier promise to relax restrictions made two weeks ago.
“I have confidence that everyone will continue to work hard to keep everyone safe,” she said.
“With that, comes some risk and we accept that, but we believe that is … a calculated risk and we are confident our health system and the processes we have in place in NSW will allow that to happen.”
The news comes nearly a week after WA Premier Mark McGowan surprisingly announced his state would drop its entry restrictions and replace them with what he’s terming a “controlled border”.
From 14 November, people will be able to enter WA without quarantine from areas that have had no community transmission in 28 days, which currently includes Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory.
Those from states with a rolling average of less than five, which includes NSW and Victoria, will be asked to quarantine at a “suitable premise” for 14 days and take a COVID test on day 11.
All entrants may be asked to take a test, temperature check and fill out a border declaration.
The significant relaxation of measures came as a surprise given that the state pointedly refused to sign up to a national cabinet agreement pledging to open Australia by Christmas.
WA has had no cases where a source cannot be traced for six months and 19 days, and travellers have been banned since 11 April.
“We’re going from a hard border to a controlled border, it’s still a measure that a year ago you wouldn’t have imagined you’d have in place,” said Premier McGowan.
“The health advice has indicated along this road, on a few occasions. We follow that health advice. It’s stood us in good stead.”
New Qantas Group weekly NSW-Victoria network from 23 November
Qantas Melbourne – Sydney (75 services)
Jetstar Melbourne – Sydney (42 services)
Jetstar Melbourne – Ballina (5 services)
Qantas Mildura – Sydney (4 services)
Jetstar Melbourne – Newcastle (10 services)
Qantas Bendigo – Sydney (5 services from 7 December)