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Qantas hints Perth could lose exclusivity as London layover

written by Adam Thorn | October 8, 2021

A Qantas 787-9, VH-ZND, as shot by Victor Pody

Qantas has again hinted Perth could permanently lose its exclusive status as a transit hub for flights between London and both Sydney and Melbourne.

It comes as the carrier confirmed it had reached an agreement with the Northern Territory to temporarily reroute its ‘kangaroo’ flights through Darwin Airport until “at least” April 2022.

However, in a pointed statement, the business said it would watch how the new route performs and would remain “open-minded about what it could lead to down the track”, suggesting Darwin could become a more permanent fixture.

Chief executive Alan Joyce said last month that if the route generates “good interest and good traffic” it could be in addition to the Perth layover.

The statements are significant because Qantas has previously criticised the state’s “conservative border policies” and is currently involved in a separate court dispute with Perth Airport over charges.


The Sydney-Darwin-London route will begin on 14 November while the Melbourne-Darwin-London route is scheduled to begin on 18 December 2021.

Qantas says flights to Melbourne could start even earlier depending on discussions with the Victorian government on shorter quarantine arrangements for returning travellers.

The passenger transit arrangements will be split into two stages to reflect COVID arrangements in the territory itself. In stage one, transiting passengers from all Australian states, or returning from London, will be able to visit the international lounge and shops at Darwin Airport.

Passengers travelling from London via Darwin to Sydney and Melbourne and wanting to travel onwards to other Australian cities will also be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.

In stage two, transiting passengers will have the option to leave the terminal and visit Darwin, while Darwin-based customers can book a direct flight to the UK.

As it stands, the Flying Kangaroo confirmed it will operate three weekly return flights between Sydney and London, as well as three weekly return flights between Sydney and Los Angeles, both on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in November.

The airline said previously those are the two routes that have been the most searched on its website in recent weeks, and it will add more flights to meet increased demand, if needed.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said, “The Kangaroo route is one of the most iconic on the Qantas international network and we are delighted that Darwin will play a vital role in Australia’s post pandemic reopening to the world.

“Qantas has been flying repatriation services from London to Darwin as part of the airline’s efforts to help bring Australians home over the past 12 months, so our pilots already have extensive experience operating this particular route.”

All passengers on Qantas’ international flights will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine.

They will also be required to return a negative PCR COVID test at least 48 hours prior to departure and home quarantine for seven days on arrival into New South Wales.

Qantas bullishly predicted back in August that Australia’s international borders would open by December due to its strong vaccine rollout, and later confirmed that it would restart flights from 18 December, before moving it forward to 14 November.

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Comments (11)

  • Warwick


    The way QANTAS has been treated by airport bureaucracy, & its’ closed border McGowan, is beyond the pale.

    So if our National Carrier decides to transit DRW permanently, only WA will be the loser.

    The Company may even see a large uptake by Eastern seaboard population, wanting to fly via DRW, instead of the b#& numbing cross-country route via PER.

    Good on its’CEO Mr Alan Joyce, & the Board for having the guts to do this.

  • Ian


    Just continue Darwin as the permanent hub for UK flights and eventually feeds could be Brisbane and Adelaide even Gold Coast (be it only 2 days a week say) a bit like AirNZ used to offer from East Coast Australia (including Gold Coast and Cairns) to Auckland. Then a few hours at a pleasant airport and then to north America like Vancouver, San Francisco, even central USA and Chile. Thus you could fly say Gold Coast to Vancouver. Forget Perth Qantas!

  • Martin I Clementson


    No doubt BA would be happy to operate LHR-PER. They have plenty of 787’s. In that case it could offer One Stop to US East Coast.

    • Geoffrey


      They’d have to check re: traffic rights’ on that route.

      An airline can NOT just decide where it wants to go.

      Doubt very much they’d have an interest in doing so, as they pulled out of this Country ages’ ago.

      And what has east coast USA to do with a flight to PER?
      You seriously don’t think an airline could, or would do a LHR-JFK-PER flight?

  • Duncan


    Think big picture folks. The MEL/LHR flight via PER was never going to be forever. It’s always been about Project Sunrise with Joyce. The LHR flights were testing the appetite of travellers for ultra-long haul hops which has proved a success. Soon enough DRW will be whinging too. It’s always been a MEL and SYD focused project.

  • Bill


    Great idea QANTAS. I have avoided going QANTAS to Europe from Brisbane as it involved a connection at Sydney or Singapore. Darwin is at least in the same direction and country.

  • Mick


    Typical Qantas, remember they have dumped international flights out of Perth previously. Maybe BA might enjoy taking over the London – Perth route?
    Qantas certainly have a problem with claiming to be ‘Australia’s airline’, maybe time for Qantas shareholders to consider upper management replacement?

    • Geoff


      Does BA have traffic rights’ LHRPER?
      Is BA even interested in doing that run? Very doubtful.

      No airline is going to fly a route that loses it money.

      Your cheap snipe at QANTAS, & its’ CEO Mr Alan Joyce, is unwarranted.

  • Peter Hodgkinson


    While the right wing readers of this journal are busting a gut to condemn the WA Labour Premier for his very effective border controls, they have lost the plot when they recommend diverting the London flights through Darwin instead of Perth. Non stop services from the extremities of Oz to London might be expected, in addition to picking up base loads of passengers from Sydney and Melbourne, to serve demand sourced in those extremities. The chances of adding significantly to the base load in Perth must be substantially greater than the chances in Darwin. I would imagine that Mr Joyce and his number crunchers would have the wit to work this out…but sometimes I do wonder!

    • Lindsay


      Do you really think that the populace on the eastern seaboard which likes fly, want to go through PER?

      It’s literally a pain in the @$$ to have to track through there.

      DRW is a much better fit for those folk, & the decision by QANTAS CEO Mr Alan Joyce, & the Board to do so, is the right one.

  • John McGee


    BA might have plenty of 787s but they are really going to struggle to operate a 2019 long haul schedule with the removal of the 747s from the fleet. They also have the problem that the use it or lose it slot waiver at LHR will end dinner rather than later. So I expect their preference will be to run more mid haul services rather than Perth.

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