First Qantas flight to London en route as travel restrictions eased – Australian Aviation
The first Qantas flight from Australia following the easing of international border restrictions is currently well underway after taking off from Sydney last night to London.
A Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner, VH-ZNI, on the flagship flight of airline QF1, took off from Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport at 6:46 p.m. Monday, before making its four-hour journey to Darwin.
The flight touched down in Darwin at 9:18 p.m., where passengers then enjoyed a short one-and-a-half-hour layover in the capital of the Northern Territory, before the plane took off again at 11:07 p.m.
Currently, QF1 is on its way to London, and is expected to arrive just before 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday. At the time of this writing, the plane had just passed through Russian airspace.
The usual flight time from Darwin to London is 17 hours 20 minutes.
QF1 is the first Qantas International flight to leave the country since the government lifted the national travel ban, and NSW, Victoria and ACT have all reopened their borders to fully vaccinated Australians.
As of March 2020, the federal government had imposed a ban on Australian citizens and residents from leaving the country, unless they were granted a valid exemption. However, as of Monday, November 1, fully vaccinated Australians are once again free to leave the country.
Speaking of Qantas’ first flights after Australia’s international borders reopened, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said: “It has been a long day for our employees and customers. It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with their loved ones after such a long separation.
“International travel may be a little different for a while with new requirements and guidelines in place, but one thing that hasn’t changed is Qantas’ commitments to safety and premium service. We are absolutely delighted to welcome everyone on board, ”he added.
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Although this is a milestone for Qantas, the Flying Kangaroo was not the first airline to leave Australia after restrictions were eased.
Singapore Airlines on Monday welcomed Australia’s easing of international border restrictions and confirmed that it had made both the first inbound flights to Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the first outbound flight from Sydney.
According to the airline, flight SQ221, operated by SIA’s latest Airbus A350-900 registered 9V-SHV, landed in Sydney at 5:15 a.m. and arrived at the boarding gate at 5:21 a.m.
It was the first plane full of passengers to arrive in Sydney that was not immediately sent to a mandatory two-week quarantine in over 20 months.
SQ221 was closely followed by Qantas flight QF12 from Los Angeles, which landed at 6:04 a.m. Qantas’ first non-quarantine international flight to Australia was made by VH-ZND, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that was ambushed last week by a tornado at Brisbane airport.
At 9:05 am, another Singapore A350, registration 9V-SHH, was pushed out of the boarding gate to become the first international flight from Australia, without requiring passengers to request an exemption to leave the country.
In Melbourne, a third SIA A350, registered 9V-SHA, operating flight SQ237, landed at Melbourne Tullamarine at 10:10 a.m. and was greeted with a water cannon salute in honor of being the first uncapped flight of overseas to land in Victoria since the caps were introduced at the start of the pandemic.
The first international flight to depart from Melbourne after the travel ban for citizens and residents ended on Monday was Cathay Pacific flight CX104 to Hong Kong. Cathay’s Airbus A350 departed Melbourne on time at 3:40 p.m. and is expected to land in Hong Kong at 9:32 p.m. local time.
Qantas announced in September that its flagship route would be “temporarily” rerouted from Perth to Darwin, with the capital of the Northern Territory now the new point of entry and exit for direct Australia-London flights.
Qantas said the arrangement, which will see flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London transit via Darwin, will be in place until “at least” April 2022.
The airline had previously suggested it might choose to reroute 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 that Perth could permanently lose its exclusive status as a transit hub for flights between London and Sydney and Melbourne, if the new Darwin route is well received.
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