Qantas is set to mount a direct challenge to Air New Zealand by launching flights to Norfolk Island from Sydney and Brisbane.
The airline will operate three return services from both Australian capitals for an initial period of three months but maintains it has the potential to make it more longer-term.
The route from Sydney will launch on Friday – the same day as Air New Zealand restarts its identical service that had been pulled due to the COVID outbreak in the carrier’s home country.
Qantas’ domestic and international CEO, Andrew David, said, “We’ll be promoting these new flights to millions of our frequent flyers across the country, with seamless connections from our large domestic network through Sydney or Brisbane, who will have the opportunity to earn and redeem points on flights to Norfolk Island.”
Norfolk Island is an offshore Australian territory but has recently been serviced by Air New Zealand instead, which also operates three return services per week to both Sydney and Brisbane.
However, flights were recently suspended as a fallout of the temporary suspension of the one-way travel bubble between the two countries.
Should the service have continued, Air New Zealand crew would have had to quarantine, making the route impractical.
While its route to Sydney will restart on 19 March, it’s not yet known when its Brisbane service will resume.
As a result, Qantas stepped in to offer a series of one-off flights in February from Norfolk Island to Australia to help tourists caught up in the breakdown.
Qantas newer three-month arrangement will utilise its 737s, offering 2,000 seats each week.
“With international borders closed, we know Australians are looking for new holiday experiences and Norfolk Island is a destination that has so much to offer,” said David. “The flights also provide an ongoing service for residents to get to the mainland.”
Customers will depart and arrive from the International Terminal in Sydney and Brisbane and flight time is two and a half hours from Sydney and two hours from Brisbane.
Fares from Sydney start from $412 one-way and from Brisbane from $390 one-way.
The news comes after Qantas said last week that the government’s new package of financial support will accelerate its return to 80 per cent domestic capacity.
The help includes 800,000 half-price airfares for passengers to 13 destinations, wage subsidies for 8,600 international aviation employees and a six-month extension of the ‘RANS’ and ‘DANS’ supplemented routes initiative.
It said the money would deliver paid training for pilots, cabin crew and engineers, bring idle aircraft back to service and maintain flights on otherwise unviable routes.
“In total, this package is a lifeline for broader travel and tourism sector in Australia, just as it’s trying to get back on its feet,” said chief executive Alan Joyce. “Ultimately, it’s an investment in an industry that has always been a huge driver of economic activity and will be again.
“The targeted support from the federal government is about helping people stay connected to aviation despite the extended of period of time they still face on the ground. It helps preserve the skills and experience we’re going to need when long haul flying restarts. In a country like Australia, that capability has taken years to build and is absolutely crucial for the nation’s future.”