Qantas will add seven new routes and two new destinations to its domestic network from early 2021.
The bulk of the routes, to be flown by the airline's QantasLink arm, spear out from Melbourne, although Sydney and Adelaide also pick up one new service each.
- Sydney-Griffith: daily flights from February 1
- Melbourne-Newcastle: 12 flights per week from February 1
- Melbourne-Merimbula: four flights per week from February 1
- Melbourne-Mount Gambier: five flights per week from March 28
- Melbourne-Wagga Wagga: four flights per week from March 28
- Melbourne-Albury: four flights per week from March 28
- Adelaide-Mount Gambier: five flights per week from March 28
Most flights will feature the 50-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 turboprop, with lead-in fares starting from $125 one-way.
Several existing Qantas regional services are also set for an upgrade.
Sydney-Orange will jump from three flights per week to daily from February, with Melbourne-Gold Coast flights going twice-daily from April with a new schedule to cater for both business and leisure travellers.
Seasonal routes such as Perth-Hobart, Canberra-Hobart and Brisbane-Port Macquarie will be promoted to operate on a year-round basis.
Home-grown travel boom
The airline says its regional ramp-up is intended to both tap into and spike demand for domestic travel, especially as international flying is expected to remain largely off the agenda until the second half of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We know there is significant pent-up demand for travel" says QantasLink CEO John Gissing.
"These new flights will help more Australians explore some of the incredible places in their own backyard and drive tourism, which is so vital to the local economies of regional areas.”
“Before COVID, more than 11 million Australians travelled overseas each year, so these flights will help convert some of these international trips into domestic holidays instead,” Gissing added.
However, rival Regional Express has described Qantas' move as "an opportunistic strategy of flooding the regional airline market with additional excess capacity to eliminate weaker regional competitors, which will have devastating long term impacts for regional aviation."
Qantas was attempting "to weaken Rex by attacking its profitable regional operations even at the cost of heavy losses for itself," the airline said in a statement issued overnight.
It called for the Federal Government "to cease all grants to Qantas if it persists with this opportunistic behaviour."
Rex itself received a total of $62 million in government support to June 30, and as previously reported will begin directly competing with Qantas on the Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane market from March 2021, with opening fares pitched at $79 for economy and $299 for business class.