As Queensland opens, the 'Golden Triangle' is back in business

With borders coming down, flights on the 'triangle' – between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – are getting back on-track.

By Chris Chamberlin, November 25 2020
As Queensland opens, the 'Golden Triangle' is back in business

With border restrictions between New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland being wound back, Australia’s ‘Golden Triangle’ of travel should be back in place from December 1.

That 'triangle', of course, covers flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane (which represent a triangle when connected on a map).

For all but essential travellers, these routes had largely sat grounded since July, owing to various restrictions imposed by New South Wales and Queensland limiting entry and requiring quarantine.

But with those borders coming down, here's how the Golden Triangle is springing back to life.

Melbourne-Sydney flights the first to bounce back

The barriers to flying on what was previously Australia's busiest domestic route came down this week, with New South Wales abolishing its hard border to Victoria on Monday November 23.

This saw the return of Sydney-Melbourne flights for business travellers and holidaymakers, who are now able to freely dart between the two cities.

Sydney-Brisbane, Melbourne-Brisbane from Dec 1

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has now confirmed that the declaration of the Greater Sydney area as a coronavirus ‘hotspot’ would be withdrawn from December 1.

As a result, Sydneysiders, as well as other travellers who have entered ‘Greater Sydney’, will be welcomed back to Queensland from that date – including on Sydney-Brisbane flights – with no need to quarantine.

Likewise, with Victoria now recording a straight 28 days of no untraced COVID-19 community transmission, all travellers on the Melbourne-Brisbane route – along with other routes between Victoria and Queensland – will be welcomed back from December 1.

This brings the Golden Triangle back to life for business travellers, as well as leisure flyers, and opens the doors to visiting friends and family along these routes as well.

Qantas, Virgin Australia ramp up flights

Within hours of the news breaking about Queensland’s borders, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar all moved quickly to ramp up flights on ‘triangle’ routes.

Qantas, Jetstar boost Sydney-Brisbane flights

On the popular Sydney-Brisbane corridor, Qantas is boosting flights from 25 to 63 return services per week, with Jetstar climbing elevenfold, up from four to 44 weekly return flights between the same cities.

“This is news that many families have been waiting so long to hear,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

“Based on the demand we’re seeing already, Queenslanders can expect to welcome a lot more visitors in the next few months.”

Qantas will also schedule 28 return flights between Melbourne and Brisbane from December, and with Jetstar to offer 35 weekly return flights.

Both airlines are currently operating no flights at all between Brisbane and Melbourne.

“New South Wales and Victoria have done such a great job getting the virus under control that it makes complete sense to open the borders to Sydney and Melbourne,” Joyce said optimistically, ahead of a commitment by Queensland to open up to Victoria.

Virgin Australia dials up Sydney-Brisbane flying

With Queensland’s border currently closed to Greater Sydney, Virgin Australia is presently running just six return flights per week between Brisbane and the NSW capital.

From the day the border opens on December 1, that jumps to three return flights per day, being 21 weekly return flights.

By Christmas, that’s expected to climb further, with up to seven flights per day in each direction.

“The additional services will be timed to provide choice and convenience for customers, while at the same time give travellers the opportunity to do business and reconnect with loved ones,” said Virgin Australia’s GM Network and Revenue Management, Russell Shaw.

With regard to Melbourne, the airline currently offers 1-2 return flights from Brisbane most days, but doesn’t fly the route on Saturdays.

From December 1, that's boosted to two return flights per day, jumping to five return flights per day from December 14.

Airport lounges prepare to welcome back travellers

As domestic travel begins ramping up in time for Christmas, Qantas and Virgin Australia were already on-track to welcome travellers back to airport lounges on the triangle, and across Australia.

Qantas was the first airline to show its hand, reopening its Business Lounges in Sydney and Brisbane back in July, and using them to serve all lounge-eligible travellers – including Qantas Club and Chairman’s Lounge members, where those lounges were closed.

When Qantas Clubs were closed, all lounge-eligible travellers were invited into the Business Lounge.
When Qantas Clubs were closed, all lounge-eligible travellers were invited into the Business Lounge.

Come December 2, the day after Queensland’s border opening, the airline will also dust off its Qantas Club lounges in the same cities, and expects to reopen its Chairman’s Lounges in “early December” as well.

The Qantas Business Lounge at Melbourne Airport will also spring back to life from December 2, although the neighbouring Qantas Club is expected to remain closed at first, due to Victorian venue capacity restrictions.

Read: Qantas to reopen most airport lounges in December

Over at Virgin Australia, the airline unlocked the first of its airport lounges last week, following its exit from voluntary administration under the reigns of its new owner, Bain Capital.

Virgin Australia's lounge at Brisbane Airport is once again open.
Virgin Australia's lounge at Brisbane Airport is once again open.

Brisbane took first honours – being Virgin’s hub and home base – with lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as in Adelaide, Perth, on the Gold Coast, and possibly also Canberra flagged to return as border restrictions ease and travel volumes increase.

Read: Visiting Virgin Australia's newly-reopened Brisbane lounge

Sydney-Melbourne a billion-dollar route

Prior to COVID-19, the Sydney-Melbourne route was among the world’s busiest air corridors, and for the Qantas Group alone, delivered yearly revenues of more than a billion Australian dollars.

According to flight schedule analysis from OAG, every hour that Qantas had planes in the air between the two cities, its revenues would average over US$24,000 on that route alone – that’s around A$32,800, based on today’s exchange rates.

Read: For Qantas, Sydney-Melbourne is a billion dollar route

In 2018, the only route to deliver more in airline revenues globally was London Heathrow to New York JFK, on which Qantas partner British Airways captured the lion’s share of earnings.

With the recent and planned border openings, the Qantas Group – which includes both Qantas and Jetstar – will return to a flying schedule at around 60% of pre-COVID levels by Christmas.

Virgin Australia hasn’t released similar figures, but does confirm that flight searches between Sydney and several Queensland destinations are now back to similar levels compared with the same time in 2019.

As well, the number of last-minute flight bookings at Virgin Australia has also seen a “considerable increase”.

Queensland’s border to Adelaide and surrounds remains closed following the recent outbreak, but the Queensland Premier and the state’s Chief Health Officer have confirmed that QLD/SA border restrictions would be reviewed at the end of November.

Also read: Qantas CEO expects mandatory COVID vaccination for international flights

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and 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.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 66

It's now time for Virgin to re-open its lounges in Melbourne and Sydney. At the very least, they should provide a date. The situation in Melbourne is particularly dire: if you want to eat before the flight, there's McDonalds and basically nothing else (though Grill'd and a couple of other places are open over in the international terminal's landside eating area).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 500

Personally, I think Jayne H is way out of her depth when it comes to dealing with 'business travelers' - irrespective of which fare/seat on the plane they sit (Eco, EconX or J-Class).  Holiday makers fly with a different mindset, have a far more casual timetable and, generally, lower expectations of air travel - being more focused on the destination.  

But when travelers fly for business, which they do far more frequently than purely for R&R, they (we/I) have far higher expectations, not least because our inter-state business connections (whether internal or external) have high expectations of us.  Whilst I'm sure Jayne travels for business far far more often than I ever will, I have to pay for my airfares, I'm not comped into Seat 1A by my employer and I don't have cabin crew (as good as they are) fawning all over my ever need or preference.  

It is simply inconceivable that (a) inflight J-Class isn't back to normal and (b) airport lounges aren't readily open for Gold/Platinum and J-Class travelers.  She's had ample time to get this sorted.  Bain have made an error in her appointment.  At this rate she'll be gone well inside 12 months.  

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 66

Look, I was appalled at her appointment too -- not because of her but because of the duplicitous way that Bain insisted that they wouldn't appoint her, and then they did. But can't you remember that when Alan Joyce was appointed to head Qantas, the cry from near and far was "He might have done OK at Jetstar but he has no idea how to run a full-service airline"? And when Paul Scurrah was appointed at Virgin, the consensus within these forums was that his inexperience at running an airline probably meant that his appointment was a mistake?

Having people insist that they're out of their depth is a rite-of-passage for new airline CEOs. 

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 125

wowsers, she's barely started the job and you've written her off. Give her a chance 


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