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Qantas A380 from LA marks first tourist flight into Australia

written by Adam Thorn | February 21, 2022

VH-OQB was the first Qantas A380 to return to Australia after being placed in storage in March 2020. VH-OQB landing in Sydney. (Qantas)

Australia has finally opened its borders to international tourists after banning their arrival for nearly two years.

Qantas’ only operational A380, VH-OQB, serviced the historic flight that departed LAX at 9:02pm on 19 February as flight QF12 and landed in Sydney this morning at 6:16am.

It marks Australia’s final stage of reopening its borders after previously allowing residents and citizens to fly in November last year, before opening to students, backpackers and skilled migrants in December. The federal government progressively increased travel restrictions from late March 2020 as COVID cases rose.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said, “It’s fair to say we’ve all been waiting a long time to welcome visitors back to Australia.

“The thousands of international tourists arriving this week and many more over the coming months will help kickstart the tourism industry which has done it tough for the past couple of years.


“We can clearly see from the Australian government’s announcement that people are very keen to come back to Australia, and we continue to see strong bookings out of the US and UK, as well as South Africa and Canada.”

The Qantas Group will fly more than 14,000 passengers into Australia this week, and on Monday, it will also operate flights from eight destinations including Vancouver, Singapore and London.

Jetstar’s first unrestricted international flight, JQ18, will touch down in Melbourne from Phuket at 10.05am and QF70 from Delhi to Melbourne will arrive at 1.35pm.

Virgin dramatically scaled back its international network during COVID, and now operates only shorter-haul overseas flights. However, chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka called today the point that “things start to turn” for the local industry.

“Since the announcement of Australia’s reopening to all overseas travellers, we have seen positive trends in bookings across our domestic network as a result of increased consumer confidence,” she said. “This will no doubt flow through to our short-haul international services which are due to recommence next month.”

While Australia’s international borders have opened, each state and territory are operating different entry requirements, with WA still remaining closed to both interstate and international travel.

All arrivals will also be required to have two doses of an approved COVID vaccine.

Some tourists were previously allowed to enter under travel bubble arrangements that Australia implemented with New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

Last week, Australian Aviation reported how Tourism Australia launched a $40 million global campaign to bring international tourists back Down Under in 2022.

It’s the first widespread international campaign that the government tourism body has been able to produce and run since before the COVID pandemic and the 2020 bushfire crisis.

The new campaign, called “Don’t Go Small. Go Australia” includes a 30-second ad being rolled out across global markets, including Germany, France, Italy, the US and UK, from 14 February.

The 30-second TV advertisement features a montage of iconic Australian landscapes, including The Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour and Uluru, and encourages overseas travellers to “come and say g’day”.

The campaign also includes advertisements across print, digital and social channels.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said Tourism Australia has been preparing to ramp up its international marketing efforts, once the border reopening was announced.

“The world has been waiting two years to get Down Under for a holiday and our latest ad campaign will remind them of what they’ve been missing,” Tehan said.

“After COVID-19, the world is looking forward to taking a holiday and we want that holiday to be in Australia.

“This new campaign is just the first step in a long-term strategy to restart tourism to Australia, with further investment in tourism marketing campaigns internationally to come in the second half of the year.”

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Comments (3)

  • David Arnold


    To be met by the quintessential Australian experience of no trains due to a strike.

  • Andrew Franklin


    Joyce has made a big mistake retiring the 747 Fleet.50 yrs in the skies and the first A380’ are all ready in the boneyard after 10yrs..Makes no sense Andrew Franklin .

    • Yea I agree and what has been and kind of still is the new 747-8 and the 747-8 I is 20% more fuel efficient than the ELR ( Extra Long Range ) version 400 , and I think to a degree more reliable ,although over all the A 380 has been fairly reliable but they cover up a lot of stuff that’s never ever gets out because they can’t afford to loose the confidence of their shareholders . That one that blew the RollsRoyce over the Pacific didn’t do them any good as far as confidence goes, but RollsRoyce was on top of it instantly and Qantas got their money back from them, some huge amount !! The other thing is that you won’t hear Qantas talk about or mention and that is the intensity of the maintanence of the A380 because they don’t want people loosing confidence in them and it’s costly for them , but then also you havto think about the fact that origanally it was engineered and designed to fly up to 880 people at any given time, in a max pax layout provided everything is balanced out perfectly and Qantas are probably no more than 550 at the very most so 330 or so less than the maximum and due to sleeper seats in I persume both Business and First class takin up loads and loads of extra room!!!

      In my opinion they would be better off havin an all out eight across in the widest sections but also with the rest of the aircraft such as the United Arab Emirates new ( Premium Economy Class ) right through ,top to bottom ,front to back with exactly the same width and recline and a ultra soft, lavish ,lush type of leather identical to that of the Emirates and they could fit more in at a comfortable rate of distance between each row of seats . The Emirates have a few A 380 s fitted with 600 or more seats and they are both viable and profitable for them so they will continue with them for some time to come and I say good luck to them. They made the effort to make the Jet a lot more comfortable fitting that new Type of classy seating for people that don’t have as big of income to pay for business and first class so they have done an exellent job in allowing for those people with such an exellent classy type of interior seating , and they are exstending those interiors to some of their other types of jets as well .

      So yea when you fly in the 747 -8 you know ,feel and are confident that your in a well engineered , constructed and reliable type of jet and Lufthansa is one of the very few still flying around in what is still a fairly new 747-8 and it would be a nice ,trouble free, reliable and smooth flight in general but once again it’s the interior that sets the pace for overall comfort , so put those same type of Premium Economy Class seats in a 747 front to back, top to bottom and you’ve got a real winner as far as overall engineering goes with comfort and reliability. So yea a lot of people would agree with you I think.

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