Published on 25th November 2020 at 14:25

Qantas will recommence direct flights from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast following the announcement of the border opening between Queensland and Victoria.

From 17 December, the flying kangaroo will operate a daily service with passengers arriving on the Sunshine Coast at lunchtime.

The seasonal service will run to 31 January 2021 and will be the first time in three years that Qantas has flown on the route. The flights will be operated by a two-class Boeing 717 aircraft, offering more than 1500 seats each week. The airline will look to extend the service if there is strong demand.

Qantas will also restart flights from Sydney to Maroochydore on 1 December with five services a week, increasing to daily flights from 18 December. Jetstar will also recommence services to Maroochydore operating up 44 flights a week from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the new service would offer customers a premium leisure option just in time for the busy school holiday period.

“Queensland opening its borders to Greater Sydney and Victoria means we’re able to launch hundreds of additional services along the eastern seaboard to some of the most popular tourism destinations,” Mr Gissing said.

“We moved quickly to add flights to Queensland, and we are now expecting to be at 60 per cent of our pre-COVID-19 domestic capacity by the Christmas peak.

“We’re pleased to be able to add new routes where there is demand. These new flights are a huge win for local tourism operators who will benefit from an influx of visitors and help us to get more of our people back to work.”

Qantas also last week launched a new route between Sunshine Coast and Canberra, operating three times per week – the first time Qantas landed in the Sunshine Coast since March.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland’s $15 million Aviation Recovery Fund would support direct flights between Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast ahead of the festive season.

“We welcome the return of this seasonal service which makes it possible for Victorians to jump on a plane in the morning and be relaxing on a Sunshine Coast beach by lunchtime,” the Premier said.

“Victorians have earned their time in the sun and we look forward to welcoming them to the Sunshine Coast for a summer holiday.

“COVID-19 has been tough on Queensland’s tourism industry but our strong health response means we’re able to fast-track our economic recovery plan.”

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the direct Qantas flights will land and estimated $2.6 million in overnight visitor spending and support 51 Sunshine Coast jobs.

“Our COVID-19 economic recovery plan is taking off with the Palaszczuk Government’s $15 million Aviation Recovery Fund helping interstate visitors to experience their dream Queensland holiday,” he said.

The Aviation Recovery Fund has so far supported 18 services to get back into the air to generate more than $66.1 million in overnight visitor spending for regional Queensland economies and support 536 jobs.

Sunshine Coast Airport CEO Andrew Brodie said the Sunshine Coast had traditionally been a desirable destination for Melbournians and expected the new service to be popular with the Coast’s business community.

“To have Qantas servicing Melbourne from the Sunshine Coast is a real coup, offering passengers more choice and highlighting the increasing diversity of the Sunshine Coast market, with a rapidly growing business sector,” Mr Brodie said.

“It is also a fantastic opportunity for our local tourism sector, delivering high value visitors to our region to explore our beautiful beaches, magnificent hinterland and relaxed coastal towns.

“And of course, it offers Sunshine Coast locals the chance to explore all that Australia’s cultural capital has to offer, including world class festivals; a vibrant food and wine scene; and iconic sporting events.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas has introduced a number of initiatives to help customers to book with greater flexibility, including allowing a flight to be moved free of charge, as well as introducing additional health and safety measures  through its Fly Well program.