Qantas, Virgin Australia domestic flights: New and relaunched routes to take off as borders reopen

Qantas and Virgin Australia have announced several suspended domestic routes will return to service as state borders begin to reopen.

On December 4, Qantas will launch a Sydney-Launceston route, flying three times a week and increasing to four flights the following week. The route will continue over summer, until February 4, 2021. Qantas flagged that the route may continue beyond this eight-week period if there is sufficient demand.

It's the first time Qantas has flown to Launceston in 16 years.

"We know there is huge pent-up demand for domestic travel with Australians looking for new destinations to explore," Qantas domestic and international  chief executive Andrew David said.

"We'll keep a close eye on demand and if it proves successful we will look to extend the service."

Qantas will also restart flights between Sydney and Hobart from November 6, with 11 return services a week.

The airline recently launched two other new routes:  Brisbane-Hobart and Gold Coast-Hobart (the latter with Jetstar).

The airline said it would now be offering more than 125,000 seats between Tasmania and the  mainland in December, representing more than 10 per cent of the Qantas Group's total domestic capacity.

Virgin Australia announced it would reintroduce flights from Brisbane to Alice Springs and Brisbane to Emerald in November, while increasing flight frequency to key holiday destinations.

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The airline will fly Sydney-Ballina eight times a week and Brisbane-Hamilton Island 10 times a week from November 9. It will also increase flights to Adelaide to three daily from both Sydney and Brisbane.

"The increased frequencies to Byron Bay, Hamilton Island and Adelaide will help the tourism industry to get back on its feet," said Virgin's group chief commercial officer John MacLeod.

Victorian flights remain limited to essential travel for both airlines until other states open their borders to Victoria.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said the border with Victoria would remain closed for the moment, until the impact of Melbourne's reduced COVID-19 restrictions can be measured.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein has said that state's border should open to Victoria on December 1.

The state border closures during the pandemic have caused chaos for airlines, including causing the demise of Tigerair and the sale of Virgin Australia to Bain Capital. The Sydney-Melbourne route, typically the second-busiest air route in the world, is no longer one of Australia's busiest domestic routes. That title now goes to Brisbane-Cairns, though this may change again as borders reopen.

See also: Australia' busiest flight route no longer includes Sydney or Melbourne

See also: Qantas confirms rescue flights to bring stranded Aussies home

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