The first Qantas commercial flight connecting Australia to India directly in nearly 10 years has departed from Sydney Airport on Monday, bound for Delhi after a short stop-over in Adelaide.
The flight, QF67, departed Sydney at 6:47am on Monday, before flying just 1.5 hours to Adelaide, and landing at 7:57am local time.
A planned one-hour stopover suffered a one-hour delay, with the Airbus A330-200 taking to the skies again at 9:47am local time. QF67 is now completing its 11.5-hour leg to Delhi, due to land at 4:30pm local time.
The new routes have been introduced to cater to the nearly 700,000 Indian migrants living in Australia and their families.
Monday’s flight marks the first time that Qantas has operated a commercial service to India since the end of its Brisbane to Mumbai service in 2012, and the airline’s first regular passenger flight from Australia to Delhi since 1974.
However, the airline has been operating regular flights to and from India throughout the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of the Australia movement, in order to repatriate Australian citizens and residents from the country.
Qantas said in the last 12 months alone, it has operated over 60 repatriation flights from India.
From Monday, the airline will operate three return commercial flights per week between Sydney and Delhi, with the frequency to increase in January.
The Sydney-Delhi route was initially planned to conduct one stopover in Darwin, while being a non-stop service on the return leg. However, the Darwin stopover has since been swapped with Adelaide.
The Melbourne-Delhi route, due to begin from 22 December, will also stop over in Adelaide while being non-stop on the return leg to Melbourne. Qantas will operate four return services per week on this route, with same day connections available from Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.
According to Qantas, the Sydney and Melbourne to Delhi services have been its “fastest-selling routes” on its international network, since Australia’s international border restrictions began to ease in early November.
Qantas said many of its flights to Delhi in December are already entirely sold out.
“We’re thrilled to be beginning commercial flights to India for the first time in almost a decade,” said Qantas Domestic and International CEO Andrew David.
“There’s a huge amount of pent-up demand from friends and family wanting to reunite after being separated for so long.
“There was an incredible response when we announced both our new routes to Delhi. Forward bookings for the next few months are well ahead of our initial forecasts so while it’s early days, it’s an exciting start.
“The level of pent-up demand on this route can be seen by the fact that almost all customers travelled as planned despite the temporary three-day additional isolation requirement.
“There are very strong trade and economic links between Australia and India, and both the Melbourne and Sydney routes will help support that as international travel starts to normalise.”
It comes just one week after Qantas resumed its Melbourne -London service, and announced it will ramp up other international flights out of Melbourne.
The airline is also gearing up to relaunch regularly scheduled passenger services between Melbourne and Los Angeles from 19 December.
The announcement comes after Victoria reopened its international border for fully vaccinated Australian citizens and residents last month, and the federal government dropped its ban on outbound travel for Australians.
The airline announced that it will bring forward its planned return to flights from Australia to Singapore, Fiji, Johannesburg, Phuket and Bangkok.
The decision came after NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that fully vaccinated overseas arrivals would no longer be required to perform any form of quarantine when returning to the state.
Victoria and the ACT quickly followed suit, dropping quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated Australian citizens and residents arriving from overseas.
Qantas stated that the decision to axe all quarantine requirements for double-jabbed Australians has significantly increased demand for overseas travel, allowing for a faster ramp up in international operations than previously planned.
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