Nearly 600 days after Australia closed its international borders, Qantas commercial passenger flights have left our shores.
The first commercial Qantas international flights are back in the air nearly 600 days after the pandemic clipped the wings of global jetsetters.
Flight QF12 from Los Angeles touched down in Sydney at 6am on Tuesday, with no border or quarantine restrictions for incoming passengers who are fully vaccinated.
Qantas’ international flight crew were clearly stoked to be back in the skies after a time of unprecedented turbulence for global travel.
“It was amazing to welcome back our passengers, and the whole team was really emotional and excited to be able to take care of them on their journey home,” said customer services supervisor Adrienne Innes, who was on the plane that arrived from the US.
Meanwhile, QF1 from Sydney to London via Darwin is set to be the first Qantas international flight to depart Sydney at 6.30pm.
While the national carrier has flown hundreds of federal government repatriation flights during the Covid-19 pandemic and operated under a temporary border bubble arrangement with New Zealand earlier this year, these are the first regular Qantas international passenger flights after the Australian and NSW governments relaxed restrictions on overseas travel.
“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,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.
All passengers on Qantas international flights are required to be fully vaccinated unless they are under 12 years old or aged between 12 to 17 years old and travelling to Australia with their family or guardian or have an exemption.
Initial flights are limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents in line with federal government requirements.
Airlines have been among the companies hardest hit by the pandemic, as border closures and travel bans melted revenue, forcing mass stand-downs and huge financial losses.
Qantas has been no exception – having missed out on an estimated $20bn in revenue over the past 18 months – although the prospect of returning travel has recently lifted the national carrier’s share price.
Qantas was last trading at $5.51 on the ASX, having dropped to nearly $3 at the nadir of the Covid outbreak in March 2020.