Qantas non-stop flights from Perth to Rome take off: First non-stop flights from Australia to continental Europe

Qantas now has a second long-haul, non-stop route to Europe with the official launch on Saturday night of its Perth-Rome flights.

An accordion player and gelato cart treated passengers checking in at Perth Airport's Terminal 4 on to celebrate the QF5's take off.

The route, announced in December and using Boeing 787 Dreamliners, is the first non-stop service connecting Australia to continental Europe and cuts the current fastest flight time to Rome by three hours. It follows the launch of non-stop Perth-to-London flights in 2018, the first time Australia had been connected to the UK with a non-stop flight.

Passengers can board QF5 in Sydney before a four-hour layover in Perth prior to the long-haul to Europe.

The first commercial flight took off half an hour late on Saturday night, but made up time in the air to arrive in Rome 20 minutes ahead of the scheduled 8.45am arrival time. 

The airline flew two sold-out special points-booking-only planes for frequent fliers earlier in the week, but Saturday's departure marked the first official commercial flight.

The launch follows Friday's announcement of two new non-stop routes to Johannesburg and Jakarta, both from Perth, making a total of eight new international routes for the airline since borders opened last November.

The new international routes come even as the airline cuts capacity on its domestic network, citing high oil prices. Flights on the busy Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane routes will be cut by 10 per cent until March next year.

Qantas has been criticised in recent months over cancelled and delayed flights, as well as long waits for customer service, with chief executive Alan Joyce saying the capacity cuts would help mitigate these problems.

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Joyce said the airline had coped better with passenger levels this weekend, which included the start of school holidays in Victoria and Queensland.

"We saw a lot less queues than what we did at Easter. We saw a better on time performance, lower level of cancellations," Joyce said before the Rome flight. "The actions we've put in place seem to be working, we're moving in the right direction.

A recent study commissioned by the airline found that there has been an increase in preference for non-stop travel post-COVID, with demand for its Perth-London route jumping 14 per cent.

Speaking in Perth, Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce said direct flights are the way of the future.

"We're seeing an increasing preference for non-stop flights to and from Australia to make the travel experience as efficient and easy as possible and we expect that will be a permanent shift in the way people want to travel," he said.

"Our flights from Perth to London are heavily booked, we've fast-tracked the return of our A380 fleet which will free up our 787s to operate new routes including Melbourne to Dallas, and we're deploying A330s to other new destinations including India and South Korea later this year."

Since the success of its non-stop flights to London, Qantas has worked with Tourism Western Australia to set Perth up a stopover hub for Australians wanting to bypass the usual Singapore or Middle Eastern stops, establishing a new international wing in the domestic T3 terminal with a dedicated international transit lounge.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said the new service to Rome was a historical moment which further strengthened Western Australia's strong connections to Italy and Europe.

"This new direct service will allow WA to grow visitation and spend into WA, helping diversify our economy and supporting long-term jobs," he said.

Italy is the airline's largest market in continental Europe for people visiting family and friends from Australia. It is not the first time Qantas has serviced the Italian capital, flying the route as part of the seven-stop Kangaroo Route to London from 1948, switching to Boeing 747s in the early 1990s that operated twice a week through to 2003. The route was suspended after the SARS epidemic caused a drop in demand.

Flying return three times a week from Perth on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, the non-stop Rome route will be seasonal, operating only during the peak holiday season in Europe from June 22 through to October 6.

Passengers will be able to book Rome and London on a single return ticket, opting to fly a circular route into one city and out of the other.

The airline's Project Sunrise has restarted post-pandemic, aiming to deliver non-stop flights from Australia east coast to London and New York

It begs the question: which city is next? Joyce has hinted at expanding the airline's European destinations to include popular cities such as Paris and Frankfurt.

"After the restrictions of the past few years, it's the ideal time to reinvigorate our international network and we'll continue to look for new opportunities," he said, following the Rome announcement in December.

Fares on the Perth-Rome route start from $1785 return. There will be 16 onward connections within Europe and 15 within Italy.

The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas.

See also: Why this Qantas flight to Melbourne made a huge 870km detour

See also: $60,000 return: Cost of flights soars, booking with points difficult