Australia’s Golden Triangle between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane finally reopened this morning after Queensland lifted its border restrictions to the NSW capital and all of Victoria.
The first flights into Brisbane Airport were a Qantas Boeing 737-838, VH-VZW msn 39359, which departed Sydney at 6:35am as flight QF502 and landed at 6:32am, local time; and a Virgin Boeing 737-8FE, VH-YFX msn 41013, which departed at 7:12am as flight VA309 and landed at 8:04am.
Last month, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made the decision to open her state on 1 December following Sydney and Victoria recording a month without any ‘community transmission’ of COVID.
Qantas and Jetstar estimated 9,000 passengers were booked to travel on Tuesday from Sydney and Melbourne to Queensland. The airline group now says it will operate more than 420 return flights per week across 19 routes between Queensland and both Sydney and Melbourne.
This compares with around 40 return flights per week when borders were closed. It also means Sydney-Brisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane have returned to their pre-COVID position in the top three busiest air routes in the country – effectively re-establishing the so-called Golden Triangle.
Virgin, meanwhile, said the majority of its Queensland flights were full on Tuesday and held a Love Actually stunt to welcome new arrivals at the gate.
It said 100,000 seats to Queensland destinations have been booked in the last seven days, while three-quarters of Queensland flights booked in the last seven days were for travel in the lead up to and during Christmas.
The business’ new chief executive, Jayne Hrdlicka, said the airline was seeing “strong demand” throughout December as people look to be reunited with loved ones for Christmas.
“Historically, the Golden Triangle has been one of the busiest flight corridors in the world and with domestic travel volumes significantly increasing for these services, we will reopen our lounges in Melbourne and Sydney on 15 December, which will be welcome news for our loyal frequent flyer members and our Lounge staff,” said Hrdlicka.
“With open borders, we can bring more of our people back to work to safely connect Australians with their families, which is the best Christmas present an airline CEO could have asked for in 2020.”
Premier Palaszczuk has repeatedly stated that she would only open her state up to areas that have recorded a month without so-called community transmission – that is cases of COVID where no source of the infection can be traced.
Those rules meant Queensland opened up to NSW on 10 July but closed to Sydney on 1 August and then to all of NSW and the ACT again a week later. Despite opening for a second time to the ACT on 25 September and NSW on 20 October, the city of Sydney was excluded.
While the borders were always open to essential travellers, they were effectively closed for all mainstream commercial flying.
The bizarre restrictions meant those from Sydney could potentially travel to Queensland but had to first spend 14 days outside the city. Travellers could also fly from Sydney Airport but couldn’t stop anywhere in the city en route.
Premier Palaszczuk said the decision was made after “extensive conversations” between her chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young and NSW’s counterpart.
Queensland’s Deputy Premier, Steven Miles, called the announcement “a great day for Australia”.
In October, Australian Aviation revealed that Queensland’s continued refusal to open its borders to Sydney caused the latter’s domestic passenger traffic to flatline in September after plunging 70 per cent the previous month.
In a statement to the ASX, Sydney Airport said it welcomed 98,000 passengers in September, up only slightly from 91,000 in August and down significantly from 276,000 in July.
Sydney Airport also revealed it welcomed 34,000 international passengers in September, down slightly from 39,000 in August.