On 1 November, Qantas will finally restart commercial, long-haul international flying in what is set to be one of the most important moments in Australian aviation history.
Flight QF1 will depart from Sydney at 18:30 en route to London, via a short layover in Darwin.
Now Australian Aviation can reveal two of the airline’s widebody 787-9s have been recently performing dozens of apparent ‘training’ laps around NSW in the run-up to the big day, including VH-ZNE – nicknamed Skippy.
It joins another 787-9 apparently competing for the honour, VH-ZNG, named Jilaroo.
Skippy has been quietly making a name for itself, and in May carried crucial ventilators and medical supplies to India.
Qantas announced last week it would bring forward its planned restart date for international flights to 1 November, following the NSW government’s decision to allow quarantine-free travel from this date to fully-vaccinated Australians.
The move saw the airline’s major international restart brought forward by two weeks, after Qantas previously announced it would begin international flights to 14 November.
From 1 November, Qantas will operate up to five return flights a week from Sydney to London, via Darwin, and up to four return flights a week from Sydney to Los Angeles with its Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Flights to London will operate via Darwin until at least April 2022.
The airline said more flights will be added to meet demand, if needed.
These flights will be limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents in line with current Australian government requirements, Qantas said.
Flights to other destinations including Singapore, Fiji and Vancouver are still currently scheduled to commence from 18 December 2021.
However, in light of the shift to remove quarantine requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in NSW, the Qantas Group is looking at bringing forward some additional destinations from Sydney if possible, the airline said.
Speaking of the announcement, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said, “Bringing forward the reopening of Australia to the world and removing quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers entering New South Wales is a massive step towards life as we knew it.
“In just a little over two weeks, Australians around the world can fly into Sydney and people from around Australia can leave on trips they’ve been waiting almost two years to take. We hope other states will do the same once they reach the 80 per cent target.”
Qantas also welcomed the decision by the NSW government to remove quarantine arrangements for fully vaccinated arrivals.
“Removing quarantine for the fully vaccinated is a sensible approach and brings New South Wales into line with many other global cities,” Joyce said.
“I want to thank the Prime Minister and Premier Perrottet for the leadership they have shown in getting borders reopened again, which is only possible because so many Australians have rolled up their sleeves in record time.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced last Friday that from 1 November, international arrivals will no longer be required to complete any form of hotel or home quarantine.
The new rules, which apply only to fully vaccinated travellers, appear to be a slight deviation from the national plan announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month, which specified a seven-day period of home quarantine for those returning to Australia.
It came as NSW hit its 80 per cent second dose vaccination target earlier than expected, on Monday, 18 October.
Additionally, from 1 November, all fully vaccinated arrivals currently in hotel quarantine will be released, regardless of how much time is left in their quarantine period.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison later welcomed the announcement from the NSW government, however, he reiterated that tourists would not yet be welcomed back into Australia.
With this, Morrison noted that the definition of “immediate family” would be extended to include the parents of Australian citizens and residents, in order to facilitate the reunification of families ahead of the Christmas holiday season.