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Emotional reunions at London Heathrow as QF1 lands

written by Hannah Dowling | November 3, 2021
VH-ZNI takes off from Sydney, headed to London via Darwin as QF1 on Monday, 1 November 2021. (Qantas)

The first Qantas flight from Australia to London – after the nation eased its restrictions on overseas travel – touched down on Tuesday morning, reuniting families for the first time in over 20 months.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, VH-ZNI, nicknamed Kookaburra, took off from Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport at 6:46pm on Monday, before completing its four-hour leg to Darwin.

The flight, performing the airline’s flagship flight QF1, landed at Darwin at 9:18pm where passengers then enjoyed a short 1 1/2 hour-layover in the Northern Territory capital, before the aircraft once again took off at 11:07pm.

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It finally landed at 6:33am local time on Tuesday.

After the flight, users took to Twitter to share their emotional responses to the return of QF1 to London Heathrow after nearly two years of travel restrictions.

Twitter user James Oates captured this video of QF1 on its final approach to London Heathrow.

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Meanwhile, families shared their stories and excitement to once again be reunited.

QF1 was the first Qantas International flight to leave the country since the government lifted the national travel ban, and NSW, Victoria and the ACT all reopened their borders to fully vaccinated Australians.

Since March 2020, the federal government had imposed a ban on Australian citizens and residents leaving the country, unless they receive a valid exemption. However, as of Monday, 1 November, fully vaccinated Australians are now once again free to leave the country.

Speaking of the first Qantas flights following the reopening of Australia’s international borders, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said, “This day has been a long time coming for our people and our customers. It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with loved ones after such a long time apart.”

“International travel may be a little different for a while with some new requirements and guidelines in place, but one thing that hasn’t changed is Qantas’ commitments to safety and premium service. We are absolutely thrilled to welcome everyone back on board,” he added.

While it is a major milestone for Qantas, the Flying Kangaroo was not the first airline to depart Australia following the easing of restrictions.

Singapore Airlines welcomed Australia’s eased international border restrictions on Monday and confirmed that it performed both first inbound flights to Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the first outbound flight from Sydney.

According to the airline, flight SQ221, performed by SIA’s newest Airbus A350-900 registration 9V-SHV, landed in Sydney at 5:15am and arrived at the gate at 5:21am.

It was the first planeload of passengers to arrive in Sydney that were not immediately sent into two-weeks mandatory quarantine in over 20 months.

SQ221 was followed shortly by Qantas flight QF12 from Los Angeles, which landed at 6:04am. The inaugural Qantas quarantine-free international flight into Australia was performed by VH-ZND, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that last week was seen ambushed by a tornado at Brisbane Airport.

At 9:05am, another Singapore A350, registration 9V-SHH, pushed back from the gate to become the first international flight to depart from Australia, without requiring passengers to seek an exemption to leave the country.

Down in Melbourne, a third SIA A350, registration 9V-SHA performing flight SQ237, touched down at Melbourne Tullamarine 10:10am, and was welcomed by a water cannon salute in honour of being the first uncapped flight from overseas to land in Victoria since the caps were introduced at the beginning of the pandemic.

The first international flight to depart Melbourne following the end of the travel ban on citizens and residents on Monday was Cathay Pacific flight CX104 to Hong Kong. The Cathay Airbus A350 departed Melbourne on time at 3:40pm and is set to land in Hong Kong at 9:32pm local time.

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