Qantas will operate its flagship “Kangaroo” route to London via Darwin (DRW) when it restarts its international operations in November 2021, the airline announced on October 8, 2021.
The Australian flag carrier usually flies the route from Perth, but with western Australia continuing to impose stricter border regulations than other regions in the country, the airline has looked at other options to route flights to London. Singapore was also in the running.
The switch is in place until “at least April 2022”, but Qantas hinted it may not return to Perth for the route at all.
“While this is a temporary change to the route, Qantas will watch how it performs and is open-minded about what it could lead to down the track,” the carrier said in a statement.
Qantas has been using Darwin as an arrival point for repatriation flights, including its longest ever commercial flight, which landed from Buenos Aires on October 6, 2021.
The new Sydney-Darwin-London route will begin on November 14 while the Melbourne-Darwin-London route is due to begin on December 18, 2021. Qantas said the Melbourne date could be brought forward, depending on the talks it is having with the government in the region of Victoria over quarantine requirements for passengers.
“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 chief executive Alan Joyce said in the statement.
“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.”
Qantas also noted that Darwin was also part of the original 1947 Kangaroo Route between London and Sydney. Back then, the journey took four days, flying from Sydney to Darwin and then onwards to Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, Bahrain, Cairo and Castel Benito before landing in London.
For Darwin, the move could lead to opportunities to capture tourists. The city plans to allow transit passengers the chance to leave the terminal and visit Darwin, “providing a tangible tourism boost for the city.”
“Darwin is Australia’s comeback capital, and now we’re taking the comeback direct to Europe,” said Michael Gunner, chief minister of the Northern Territories, where Darwin is situated.
“From Parap to Piccadilly, the opportunities are endless. The convenience of this route will mean tapping into brand new markets for tourism and business.”