The Qantas Group is expecting a “boom in domestic travel” buoyed by a sharp rebound in travel demand as state borders continue to open, but a return to “full strength” is “still a long way off,” says Group Chief Executive Alan Joyce.

He was commenting on Qantas (QF, Sydney Kingsford Smith) and Jetstar Airways (JQ, Melbourne Tullamarine) on November 23, 2020, resuming regular flights between Melbourne Tullamarine and Sydney Kingsford Smith after four months of border closures between New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (VIC). This marked the first time Victorians were able to travel anywhere interstate without quarantine since July. Increased flying between VIC and NSW would see the Qantas Group’s overall domestic capacity increase from around 30% of pre-COVID levels to just under 40%, he said.

The two airlines operated a combined schedule of 17 rotations carrying around 4,500 people on November 23, of which nearly two-thirds travelled out of Melbourne, they announced in a joint statement. During the lockdown, flights on the route dropped to as low as one flight per day on what is typically the busiest air route in the country and the fifth busiest in the world, carrying 10 million people per year. Pre-COVID-19, Qantas and Jetstar operated up to 45 return flights per day on the route - a flight every 15 minutes in peak periods.

Qantas on November 23 also started a new route between Sydney and Mildura, which was initially due to begin in March 2020; while flights between Sydney and Bendigo would resume in early December.

Jetstar would resume regular flights between Melbourne and Newcastle Williamtown and Ballina this week. The airline sold more than 25,000 seats in the first 48 hours following the announcement earlier this month that the NSW/VIC border would reopen. Jetstar’s recent “Return for Free” sale also saw huge demand from Victorians in particular, with the three most popular routes being out of Melbourne.

Link Airways (FC, Canberra), Sharp Airlines (SH, Hamilton, VI), Rex - Regional Express (ZL, Wagga Wagga), and Virgin Australia (VA, Brisbane Int'l) have also resumed schedules between NSW and VIC. From Melbourne Essendon, Link Airways on November 23 started operating again to Dubbo, Orange, NS, and Wollongong; while Sharp Airlines resumed flights to Griffith.

From Melbourne Tullamarine, REX has returned to Albury, Merimbula, and Wagga Wagga. Virgin Australia has resumed flying between Melbourne and Newcastle Williamtown and Sydney Kingsford Smith, according to the ch-aviation schedules module.

“After a very tough year for a lot of people, this is a big milestone in Australia opening back up. It’s going to be a really emotional day for a lot of our passengers. We’re going to see the kind of reunions normally reserved for long haul international flights rather than two cities that are only an hour apart,” commented Joyce.