Qantas’ first international flight out of the country since the national travel ban was lifted has officially taken to the skies above Sydney, bound for London.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, VH-ZNI, departed Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport at 6:46pm as QF1, and is currently en-route to Darwin.
The aircraft is due to touch down in Darwin at 9:35pm local time, where passengers will enjoy a 1.5 hour layover before going on to complete the near-18 hour stretch to London.
QF1 is expected to land at London’s Heathrow International Airport just before 7am local time on Tuesday.
Passengers onboard today’s QF1 service will be among the first Australians to freely leave the country without requiring a government-provided exemption in nearly two years.
The Australian government lifted its ban on outbound travel for Australians beginning Monday 1 November, and will also welcome back an uncapped number of fully-vaccinated Australian citizens and residents.
Travellers returning to Sydney, Melbourne, or the ACT from today will not be required to complete any length of home or hotel quarantine.
Currently, only 460 unvaccinated travellers – including those vaccinated overseas with non-TGA recognised vaccines – will be allowed to enter Sydney and Melbourne per week.
Singapore Airlines has welcomed Australia’s eased international border restrictions and confirmed that it performed both first inbound flights to Sydney and Melbourne this morning, 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 weren’t immediately sent into two-weeks mandatory quarantine in over 20 months.
At 9:05am, another Airbus 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.
In total, Singapore will bring just under 300 Australians back home today alone, with 2,500 expected to arrive in Sydney and Melbourne on Singapore flights by the end of the week.
The first international flight to depart Melbourne today following the end of the travel ban on citizens and residents 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.
Meanwhile, Qantas is still yet to reveal which of its 787 Dreamliners will be performing todays’ QF1 service from Sydney to London via Darwin.
A number of international flights have officially departed Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport so far today, carrying the first Australians allowed to leave the country without an exemption in nearly two years.
According to Flightradar24, a Singapore Airlines A350, 9V-SHH, departed Sydney at 9:23am bound for Singapore, while both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines took off for Los Angeles at 11:34am and 12:12pm, respectively.
Flights have also departed bound for Hong Kong and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, over a dozen inbound international flights have landed at Sydney and Melbourne this morning, with fully-vaccinated passengers allowed to freely enter both states without any requirement for quarantine.
So far, flights from Singapore, the US, Japan, Vietnam, New Zealand and Hong Kong have all landed in the country.
The Board of Airlines Representatives Australia stated that some 1,500 Australians will touch down on home soil today alone, with almost 50,000 uncapped seats available on commercial flights into the country per week moving forward.
The first passengers to land at Sydney in the early hours this morning were reportedly welcomed at the arrivals gate with bouquets of native flowers and Tim Tams.
Fully-vaccinated Australians are now free to leave the country, as the federal government last week lifted its ban on outbound travel for citizens and residents from today.
In light of the news, Qantas is now preparing for its first flight from Sydney to London, via Darwin, flight QF1, which will depart just before 6pm today for those Australians most eager to return to their overseas travels, as well as visit loved ones overseas.
The flight will be performed by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Due to take off from Sydney just before 6pm, passengers onboard will fly for around 4.5 hours before completing their layover in Darwin. The layover will take approximately 1.5 hours, before QF1 performs the final leg of its journey direct to London, with a flight time of around 17 hours 20 minutes.
Today’s QF1 service will be the first outbound Qantas flight to take to the skies since the travel ban was lifted, and since Sydney, Melbourne and the ACT reopened their international borders for fully vaccinated Australians.
However, Qantas will not be the first international flight out of the country following the eased restrictions. Currently, flights scheduled to Singapore (SQ212), Los Angeles (UA842) and Hong Kong (CX100) are all among the first international flights departing from Sydney today.
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.
Qantas announced in September that its flagship QF1 route will be “temporarily” rerouted from Perth to Darwin, with the Northern Territory capital now the new direct entry and exit point for direct Australia-London flights.
The airline previously suggested that it might opt to re-route its direct flights between Australia and London via Darwin, as opposed to Perth, in light of Western Australia’s “conservative border policies”.
Qantas later hinted Perth could permanently lose its exclusive status as a transit hub for flights between London and both Sydney and Melbourne, should the new Darwin route be well-received.
Australia has also today welcomed its first uncapped uncapped and quarantine-free international flights carrying fully-vaccinated Australian citizens and residents into Sydney and Melbourne today, after nearly two years of strict border restrictions. Read more about that here.
More to come.