Qantas and Virgin launch new routes

Fierce rivals Qantas and Virgin Australia have launched new routes across Australia, as both airlines continue to slowly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qantas has announced the launch of two new routes to regional NSW in an attempt to help reboot the local tourism industry’s post-COVID recovery.

The first Qantas flight between Sydney and Byron Bay (Ballina) in 15 years departed yesterday morning, and the airline has confirmed its first-ever flights to Orange will start on 20 July.

The additional routes are part of the gradual ramping up of Qantas and Jetstar’s domestic flights, which could get up to 40 per cent of pre-coronavirus capacity levels this month.

Both routes were originally scheduled to start earlier this year, but were delayed due to the coronavirus and travel restrictions.

QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the recent spike in bookings demonstrates there is significant pent-up demand for Australians to take a holiday after months of lockdown.

“As the national carrier, we have an important role to play in driving tourism and reviving the industry that has been devastated by COVID-19,” he said.

“These additional flights are coming at the right time for families who’ve spent much of the recent months confined to their homes and are looking forward to getting out and exploring their own state.”

“While our business has been challenged like never before by COVID-19, the launch of these flights is another step towards a recovery and getting more of our people back flying again.”

Gissing said the new services from Sydney will help connect local travellers to the ever-popular coastal hub of Byron Bay and Orange’s renowned food and wine scene.

“Byron Bay continues to be an incredibly popular destination for holidaymakers of all types, and was one of the most in-demand destinations for Qantas and Jetstar over the past month,” he said.

“After years of locals calling for the flying kangaroo to fly to Orange, the iconic red tail will touch down there for the first time in a few weeks. We are bringing much-needed competition to the route, which has been a monopoly for many years.

“These flights to Orange will make it easier for Sydney residents to discover one of NSW’s most beautiful regions and its world-class restaurants and wineries.”

QantasLink will operate daily return flights between Sydney and Ballina with its Q400 aircraft. The flights are in addition to Jetstar’s flights from Melbourne and Sydney.

The airline will operate three weekly return services between Sydney and Orange on its Q200 aircraft from 20 July, with plans to increase frequency later in the year.

Meanwhile, Virgin has added an extra 17 domestic routes, including the resumption of its flights to Newcastle, Hobart, Launceston, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hamilton Island, Maroochydore, Ballina, Coffs Harbour, Proserpine, and Mount Isa.

Virgin Australia’s chief commercial officer, John MacLeod, said: “Travel is back on the agenda for many Australians and we’re happy to be able to resume flights to a number of holiday destinations in Queensland, Northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory.”

You can check out all of the airline’s new domestic routes below:

And with the airline’s administrators all but settled on its new owner, Virgin has also brought back its weekly Happy Hour sales, with the first one taking place earlier this week.

Featured image source: Qantas