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First Qantas Flight to London Operates as Travel Restrictions Ease

Hannah Dowling

November 3, 2021

The first Qantas flight out of Australia following the lifting of international border restrictions has departed the country, bound for London. A Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner, VH-ZNI, performing the airline’s flagship flight QF1, took off from Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport at 6:46pm on Monday, before completing its four-hour leg to Darwin.

Above - VH-ZNI departs Sydney


The flight landed at Darwin at 9:18pm where passengers then enjoyed a short 1 1/2 hours layover in the Northern Territory capital, before the aircraft once again took off at 11:07pm. 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 the ACT all reopened their borders to fully vaccinated Australians.

Since March 2020, the federal government had imposed a ban on Australian citizens and residents leaving the country, unless they receive a valid exemption. However, as of Monday 1 November, fully vaccinated Australians are now once again free to leave the country.

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.

While it is a major milestone for Qantas, the Flying Kangaroo was not the first airline to depart Australia following the easing of restrictions. Singapore Airlines welcomed Australia’s eased international border restrictions on Monday and confirmed that it performed both first inbound flights to Sydney and Melbourne, 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.

SQ221 was followed shortly by Qantas flight QF12 from Los Angeles, which landed at 6:04am. The flight was performed by VH-ZND, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that last week was seen ambushed by a tornado at Brisbane Airport. At 9:05am, another Singapore 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.

VH-ZND on touchdown

Victor Pody

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.

The first international flight to depart Melbourne following the end of the travel ban on citizens and residents on Monday 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.

Qantas announced in September that its flagship route will be “temporarily” rerouted from Perth to Darwin, with the Northern Territory capital now the new entry and exit point for direct Australia-London flights. Qantas has said this arrangement, which will see flights from both Sydney and Melbourne to London transit via Darwin, will be in place until “at least” April 2022.

The airline previously suggested that it might opt 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 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.

© Hannah Dowling / Australian Aviation 2021.

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