Qantas to suspend Perth-London flights until at least April 2022

WA’s hard stance on borders will see Qantas’ direct Perth-London flights swapped to Darwin-London or Singapore-London.

By Chris Chamberlin, September 27 2021
Qantas to suspend Perth-London flights until at least April 2022

Qantas will no longer fly from Perth to London when international flights resume from mid-December 2021, due to Western Australia's determination to keep its borders closed when most of the country reopens by the end of this year.

The airline's prestigious Boeing 787-9 direct Perth-London route will be suspended "until at least April 2022", Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce confirmed today, with Perth to be replaced by either Darwin or Singapore.

"At this stage, WA doesn't intend to open to international travel until sometime next year, so we'll unfortunately have to temporarily move our Perth-London service until at least April 2022," Joyce said.

This would mean that QF9 temporarily flies either Melbourne-Darwin-London or Melbourne-Singapore-London.

Qantas has gained considerable familiarity with Darwin due to a series of repatriation flights over the past 12 months, and the airline says it has entered "detailed discussions with the NT Government and Darwin Airport to assess operating the direct London flight from Darwin during this time."

Those discussions for what would be a daily Melbourne-Darwin-London service "focus on the logistics of domestic and international transit" – more to the point, if the NT Government will permit those transits, both of inbound London passengers and Australians connecting to Darwin from other states.

However, as a time-proven stopover for the Kangaroo Route, Singapore remains a solid fallback.

"If this service can't operate through Darwin, it will instead fly Melbourne-Singapore-London until at least April 2022," Qantas said.

The Darwin vs Singapore decision is likely to be made within the next two weeks, although the airline "looks forward to operating this flight via Perth again when circumstances allow."

Qantas first flagged the potential Darwin detour last month, although WA did not subsequently budge on border controls; the airline today closed reservations for the Perth-London flight through to March 26, 2022.

Darwin vs Singapore on the Kangaroo Route

On the one hand, routing flights via Darwin could make the journey easier for travellers – particularly in light of COVID-19.

By not visiting a third country during the trip, passengers would arrive in the UK directly from Australia, and so would only need to comply with UK/Australia entry requirements.

Routing via Singapore would instead rely on The Lion City being treated the same way as Australia and the United Kingdom when it comes to quarantine.

Of course, Darwin Airport hasn't traditionally been big for Qantas international flights, with the airline having only a single Qantas Club lounge in the domestic section of Darwin Airport.

Review: Qantas Club domestic lounge, Darwin Airport

Although accessible before international departures and providing shower facilities, it's certainly not in the same league as Qantas' Singapore's lounges.

At Changi Airport, Qantas has both a flagship first class lounge and a separate business class lounge, which served London-bound flyers prior to COVID-19.

As Qantas did when overseas flights first resumed from Sydney and Melbourne, it could well open that first class lounge to all eligible lounge guests in the early days.

Review: Qantas first class lounge, Singapore Changi Airport

Which route the airline will take remains to be seen, however, with both having distinct advantages.

Western Australia also locked out of domestic travel

The state's tough stance on borders is also expected to see it closed to arrivals from New South Wales and Victoria into next year.

While Qantas will continue running five return flights a week from both Sydney and Melbourne to Perth for essential travellers, it now doesn't expect WA's border to come down until February 2022.

"Based on our discussions with Western Australia, we know their borders won’t be open to New South Wales and Victoria until early next year," continues Joyce.

As a result, "we’ve sadly had to cancel the flying we had planned on those routes in the lead-up to Christmas."

However, the airline does expect WA to relax its border controls on Queensland travellers in the coming weeks – which currently require 14 days of self-isolation on arrival in WA – and stands ready to "adjust its schedules in response."

Previously: Qantas says it could fly to London via Darwin

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 365

Good. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes Perth

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 96

Westies loved nothing better than weekend jaunts up to Bali, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. And of course those direct LHR flights were well patronised too. Now it's all just a distant memory thanks to Mark 'I'm a Tough Guy' McGowan. Brickbats to you, sir. And well played, QANTAS! Absolutely no economic sense in providing international services where it's not wanted.

Damn, that last paragraph really puts paid to the 'Qantas punishes WA' narrative that some love to trout out.

It's almost as if Qantas are desperate for as many markets as possible to be open so they can make money. They'll be back flying this route as soon as they possibly can.

Well of course. Despite everything, Perth and WA as a whole is still part of Australia with companies and families strongly tied to the rest of country. There will undoubtedly be a market for Qantas and other airlines to shuttle people around. They will go where the money is. 

What WA may see in the next year or two is a decline in willingness of companies to invest in the state or commit any long term decisions while Covid is still a topic of conversation. WA's treatment of the rest of the Australia may also be a consideration of many leisure travelers. The NT is quickly gaining steam in many areas that WA currently has the lead in and could be a strong competitor as a base of operation for travel in the near future. 

They'll move back to Perth as soon as they are permitted. Stop buying the spin that this is anything but the doors being closed to Qantas.

It's literally their flagship route.

A city of 80K is not going to convince anyone, regardless of how much 'steam' you think having a brief stopover for a few months will give the NT.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 63

Steam being the operative for Darwin given its climate 

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 19

And meantime, Perth and Brisbane are the two busiest and probably most profitable Qantas domestic hubs, with each having around 60 QF departures each weekday. 

Keeping WA and Queensland almost COVID-free has kept Qantas (and VA, Rex and Alliance) flying.

I'm sure Qantas does not want to jeopardise its regional and FIFO business with accelerated COVID infections. There's a reason quite a few WA-based resources companies declined to sign the BCA's recent 'please reopen' letter to premiers.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 68

What's happening in WA and Queensland is democracy at its best and worst. The majority are perfectly happy to not leave the state, and they're perfectly happy to force their views upon the minority who do want to leave.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 689

@Sibelius I'm a firm believer that elected officials should do as the majority wants them to do even if it conflicts with their  own beliefs and views but as an old saying goes, "When you're dead you don't know you're dead, the pain is felt by others. The same thing happens when you make stupid decisions".

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 61

UpUpAndAway whilst I agree with your belief in principal, I get the feeling that for WA and even more so Qld, there is a bit of politics at play in their decisions. I'm sure that both premiers see some political points in keeping the borders shut even once 80% are vaccinated. I think they are playing with fire if they continue the closed borders once the agreed 80% is reached. People are happy at present, but it doesn't take long for the tide to turn. If they don't open the borders at 80%, I know that I will be holidaying elsewhere in protest.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 689

@gredgey52 I think a revolt in Qld will be swift when it happens and Qlders see NSW thriving with new business and travel not being a hermit state like North Korea.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 61

I agree with you there and look forward to the day.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Aug 2020

Total posts 34

That’s where rights come in so it’s not the tyranny of the majority.

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 19

Anyone in WA and Queensland is free to leave for another state. It's coming back from NSW, Victoria and the ACT that's the problem. But then the same applies to those in Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory. 

Meantime, there's unrestricted travel between the COVID-free states. Witness the thousands of interstate football fans who descended on Perth for the AFL Grand Final.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Aug 2020

Total posts 34

However most of the states (probably including Queensland at this rate) will be in the NSW/VIC column by December 1.  

What is the plan for WA then?  

The AFL Final was Peak WA.  The only way is down now, you have to move forward.

11 Sep 2018

Total posts 9

That's a misnomer, the state isn't going to prevent anyone from leaving. 

The federal government however is a different story...

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 689

I once flew in and out of Darwin every week for 12 months, I think it's a great location to refuel for London. I'm sure NT Tourism would jump on the chance to push a great location. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 987

From business travel and VFR points of view, PER is superior to DRW but, for a unique Australian experience for tourists, DRW is an amazing option for 7 months a year anyway.  Having said that, I suspect SIN will get the nod over DRW anyway; it is just much easier for QF to run long-haul services from there.

05 May 2016

Total posts 632

I think QF could be hoping for the NT government and or Fed government to tip in some money to help sway them to give DRW rather than SIN.

I for one would consider going via DRW to LHR as a positive over having a transit stop in a 3rd country.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 987

It's not money.  It is a clear non-negotiable statement from NT Government that they will accept transit passengers from interstate and allow pax from UK to transit onto domestic services to ADL, BNE etc.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2019

Total posts 34

No surprise here. McGowan was warned by Qantas that they would skip Perth if he kept the border closed. McGowan plays to a local WA audience that love what he has done for them. When the rest of OZ is travelling, the WA electoral mood might shift forcing his hand.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 642

Hope it works out for Darwin and raises NT's profile as international travel resumes. NT deserve their piece of the pie as well - all too often forgotten.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 206

I'd take a stop in Baghdad at this point. Just get it happening for MEL & SYD!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 459

McGowan has a problem with adopting a policy that will allow COVID into the state and become responsible for a large number of deaths.  That’s understandable, but he has to accept that it will be necessary to do that at some point in time and have a plan that is shared with the people.  WA is not doing enough to get the vaccination rate up and announcing that border restrictions will continue is not going to help.  He is losing support here in Perth.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 370

as a South Australian we got ripped off when we lost our Adelaide to Singapore Qantas services that connected with the flights that started in either Melbourne or Sydney that we could transfer to on the way to London.Via Perth is not for everyone unless you are travelling on business/time poor or are not into Asian stopovers.I love if I go again to have a Singapore break on my way home for sightseeing and a little shopping and recharge the batteries.IF Qantas don't want to give us any of that It's time to give our loyal business to Singapore Airlines.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 987

Yes SQ has traditionally provided a better option for South Australians than QF.  Hopefully, when QF gets its A321LRs, they will restart a daily ADL-SIN service.

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 19

It will be interesting to see what transit arrangements Qantas and the NT Government agree on. According to a 15 September government media release, when the Territory hits the 80% adult vax target, unvaccinated travellers from designated orange and red zones in Australia will still be banned from the NT. All of NSW and Victoria are current red zones. Vaccinated travellers from red zones will have to do 14 days quarantine. Vaccinated orange zone travellers have a 'test and isolate' requirement. 

So it seems that inbound transit passengers from NSW and Victoria (absent a miracle case number reduction) will have to be isolated at Darwin Airport, presumably in the international section (which has the airport-operated Catalina Lounge), or overnight at a Darwin Airport hotel (there are two).

Presumably the UK and most of Europe will be classed by the NT government as a 'red zone'. In that case passengers arriving from London similarly will have to isolate.

Singapore might be simpler.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 689

@Airlie Hopefully common sense comes into play at 80% as a doctor said to myself last night, "Covid is a disease of the unvaccinated" 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 987

If NT Government keep ACT, NSW and Vic as red zones, then QF will have no option but to route QF9 through SIN which is probably fine by QF but a missed opportunity for Darwin and NT.

11 Sep 2018

Total posts 9

I'm amazed that people still paint Mcgowan in a negative light.

He's obliterated the liberals in the polls due to his successful hard fought stance on covid and yet eastern staters still insist on attacking him. Talk about tall poppy syndrome.

He didn't get his 80% approval rating by accident. Yes, us in the west want to travel, but we can also see that not locking down ended in disaster for NSW and Victoria and we'd rather have the freedom to roam the state and lockdown for 2 weeks at a time.  I say good on him for not bending to corporate pressure and for running the most successful economy in the world throughout this downturn.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Aug 2020

Total posts 34

However, for McGowan to then act all shocked and complain about Qantas being "ungrateful" to the WA Government, and to bring up the investment made into Perth QF terminals for international services saying that Qantas somehow "owes" WA something, is quite remarkable.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 987

Seriously, the most successful economy in the world is nothing to do with him and everything to do with record iron ore prices which have halved in the past 2 months so watch this space.  

This is a site for people who travel either for business, leisure or both.  Of course, people here want to travel and that means more than just being able to fly to Broome.  QF has made a business decision which is perfectly understandable.  Some people in WA will be happy to remain in their gilded cage indefinitely but many, particularly those who frequent this site will be keen to go a whole lot further and sooner.

11 Sep 2018

Total posts 9

That's a fairly myopic view.

The record iron ore prices are due to Brazil shutting down their mines as a result of the outbreak. WA ensured this didn't happen (as much as Palmer and Scomo hated us) and the mining giants capitalized on that, it's not luck when you're the final supplier in the world at full production.

In a way it's almost a coalition approach that Mcgowan is taking, preserve the economy and health and in the process limit some of the freedoms that we enjoy daily.

Meanwhile in NSW and Victoria is a leadership mess and the Covid numbers support this. Let's not forget it's the coalition that's blocking international flights and bungling their way to the next election.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Aug 2020

Total posts 34

@Drakesy - looks like I'll wave on my way to Singapore then. 

Here I was thinking that WA wanted to be more than a mine.

11 Sep 2018

Total posts 9

We'd rather be a functioning mine than a state overwhelmed with covid and hospitals that are over capacity.

The place that you're going to (Singapore) as it is is having second thoughts regarding reopening with their ICU's already pushing capacity this early on into their reopening.

And don't get me wrong in WA we're chomping at the bit to get out, but we're happy to wait for the target of 80% vaccines before doing so. Nothing more stupid than going overseas, contracting covid and then coming back to Australia with it.

01 Dec 2012

Total posts 19

An economy and government finances are two related but different things.

WA's government finances have been boosted a lot by iron ore royalties, while the Australian government budget has had a much-needed lift from burgeoning company taxes paid by mining companies.  

The WA economy is resources-based but more than just iron ore. The sector includes LNG and pipeline gas, oil, nickel, copper, bauxite, gold, salt, spodumene, rare earths, and lithium. Manufacturing includes alumina, refined nickel, silicon, chemicals, ammonia-urea, mining equipment and seagoing vessels. The agricultural sector is about to start a record grain harvest. And services are important both domestically and as high value exports.  There's a critical shortage of skills, though, due to the collapse of overseas migration. 

Keeping the WA economy firing through the pandemic has been quite an achievement, helped by a considerable dose of good luck.  A daily indicator for me (and  relevant to Executive Traveller) is the large number of flights in and out of Perth. In the three hours of the morning peak, there's a flight departing every three minutes on average, and over a day, there are around 120 departures and the same number of arrivals. They are mostly FIFO services, but also include five international flights and services to all other capitals and WA regional centres.

21 Aug 2019

Total posts 63

Lot of posturing. QF 9/10 is flagship and one I like to take also even though Sydney based. Convenient transit and often mixed up with a night in Perth. Qantas will be back in Perth soon enough 

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 179

Qantas will get back to Perth in time, but I wait with anticipation to see how MM will spin his way out of his self imposed State isolation. All he has done is delay the inevitable. He has a get out of jail free card by following the agreed National Cabinet opening levels. If he waits it will just come in at the point he makes the decision to open. So much easier to let a Liberal Federal Government take the wrap for him. Strange decision?  


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