MIAMI – Flag carrier Qantas (QF) has confirmed it will run its jewel direct route again from Australia to London Heathrow (LHR) via Darwin (DRW).

The national carrier has agreed to temporarily reroute its flights from Melbourne and Sydney through Darwin after reaching a deal with the Northern Territory Government and Darwin Airport. The news comes as international flights begin next month with the reopening of Australia’s border.

The Darwin hub arrangement will be in place in time for the reopening of the borders on November 14, 2021, and will last until at least April 20, 2022, when London flights will resume using Perth. While this is only a temporary tweak to the route, QF says to will keep an eye on how it performs and is open to what it could lead to in the future.

The Sydney-Darwin-London route will launch on November 14, while the Melbourne-Darwin-London line is set to launch on December 18, 2021, but could launch sooner if the Victorian government agrees to shorter quarantine provisions for returning visitors.

In detail, QF1 will take off from 14 November 2021, departing Sydney five times a week at 6.30 pm, land in Darwin at 9.25 pm for a brief refueling stop ahead of the 13,800km, 17-hour, 20-minute direct journey to London’s Heathrow airport.

Along with the Sydney to London via Darwin service, QF will restart its flights from Sydney to Los Angeles in November.

Qantas Boeing 787-9 Landing Photo: Aidan Pullino/Airways

Comments from Qantas Officials

The new route via Darwin will be made possible, according to Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce via an airline press release, thanks to the cooperation of the Northern Territory Government (NT), which has been vital in assisting Qantas in facilitating the new route in a post-COVID-19 operating environment.

“The NT Government has worked closely with us to make these flights happen and I’d like to thank the Chief Minister and his team for finding a solution that is safe and streamlined.”

The CEO added, “The Kangaroo route is one of the most iconic on the Qantas international network and we are delighted that Darwin will play a vital role in Australia’s post-pandemic reopening to the world.”

“Qantas has been flying repatriation services from London to Darwin as part of the airline’s efforts to help bring Australians home over the past 12 months, so our pilots already have extensive experience operating this particular route,” concluded Joyce.

On his part, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said, “Darwin is Australia’s comeback capital, and now we’re taking the comeback direct to Europe.”

Qantas Airbus A380 VH-OQH – Photo: Andrew Henderson/Airways

Passenger Transit Arrangements

To reflect COVID-safe measures in the Territory, the passenger transportation arrangements will be split into two parts. In the first stage, visitors transiting through Darwin Airport from all Australian states or returning from London will be allowed to use the international lounge and stores.

Passengers flying from London to Sydney and Melbourne via Darwin and then on to other Australian destinations may be subject to quarantine regulations imposed by the states and territories.

Stage two will allow transiting passengers to leave the terminal and visit Darwin, resulting in a significant surge in tourism for the city.

All passengers on Qantas’ international flights will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognized vaccine except for medical reasons and children. They will also be required to return a negative PCR COVID test at least 48 hours prior to departure and home quarantine for seven days on arrival into New South Wales.

Darwin International Airport at night. Photo: De Tourism NT (with the link where possible), Attribution,

Qantas and Darwin International Airport

In 1935, Darwin served as the departure location for the flag carrier’s first international flight, which flew from Brisbane to Singapore via Darwin.

Darwin was also a stopover on the original 1947 Kangaroo Route between London and Sydney, which flew from Sydney to Darwin before continuing on to Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Bahrain, Cairo, and Castel Benito before landing in London.

2021 marks the first time QF has conducted flights into DRW from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America as a result of repatriation flights, making it the first airport in Australia to have received non-stop flights from all inhabited continents of the world.

Featured image: Qantas Boeing 787-9. Photo: Nick Sheeder/ Airways