Qantas has confirmed it will operate its Australia-London flights via Darwin when international travel resumes next month with the reopening of Australia’s border.

The airline has reached an agreement with the Northern Territory Government and Darwin Airport to temporarily reroute its flights from both Melbourne and Sydney through Darwin.

Before Covid hit, Qantas stopped in Singapore on its Sydney-London flights while Perth was the transit point on the Melbourne-London route.

The Darwin hub arrangement will be in place in time for borders reopening from 14 November 2021 until at least April 2022, when London flights are scheduled to operate via Perth again. While this is a temporary change to the route, Qantas says it will “watch how it performs” and is “open-minded about what it could lead to down the track”.

From 14 November, QF1 will depart Sydney five times a week at 6.30pm, land in Darwin at 9.25pm for a brief refuelling stop ahead of the 13,800km, 17-hour, 20 minute direct journey to London’s Heathrow airport.

The Melbourne-Darwin-London route is currently scheduled to begin on 18 December 2021 but could start earlier depending on discussions with the Victorian Government on shorter quarantine arrangements for returning travellers.

The passenger transit arrangements will be split into two stages to reflect COVID-safe arrangements in the Territory itself. In stage one, transiting passengers from all Australian states, or returning from London, will need to stay inside Darwin Airport, but will be able to visit the “international lounge” (which sounds like the airport-operated one) and shops.

In stage two – for which we don’t have a timeframe – transiting passengers will have the option to leave the terminal and visit Darwin, providing a tangible tourism boost for the city.

Darwin based customers will also be able to book the direct flight, meaning a convenient non-stop connection to London.

All passengers will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved or recognised vaccine (there are some exemptions 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 comply with state-based quarantine arrangements.

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