Qantas ramps up NZ network, returns to Queenstown

Qantas 737-800 is welcomed back to Queenstown after 330 days. (Qantas)

Qantas has reinstated four routes to New Zealand to keep up with growing passenger demand, ahead of the country’s busy winter ski season.

It comes after New Zealand reopened its international borders to Australian citizens on 12 April, and later similarly eased entry restrictions to tourists from dozens of visa-waiver countries on 1 May, scrapping quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals.

On Monday, Qantas resumed flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Wellington, as well as its Sydney-Queenstown and Melbourne-Christchurch services. Meanwhile, its Brisbane-Christchurch service will resume on Tuesday, 24 May.

The airline noted that all newly reinstated flights into New Zealand from Australia on Monday were at full capacity, highlighting the current demand for trans-Tasman travel.

Meanwhile, Flight QF121 from Sydney to Queenstown marked the first international flight to arrive at the airport in 330 days and was met with a water salute.

Following a nearly 1.5-hour delay at Sydney Airport due to a technical storm, the Qantas Boeing 737-800 departed Sydney at 10:52 local time, landing just under three hours later at Queenstown at 15:50 local time.

The flight also marks the first of up to 20 flights per week connecting Queenstown to Australia, with capacity on the Sydney-Queenstown route alone expected to exceed 100 per cent of pre-COVID levels by July.

Flights from both Melbourne and Brisbane to Queenstown are scheduled to resume from 18 June and mark the return of Qantas’ full pre-COVID network to New Zealand.

“The ramp-up of flights between Australia and New Zealand just in time for ski season is a shot in the arm for tourism off the back of a tough few years for local operators, and Queenstown is making a particularly strong comeback,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

“Bookings across our 11 trans-Tasman routes are showing positive signs in both directions, as Australians and New Zealanders embrace the opportunity to reconnect with the people and places they love across the ditch.”

It comes as Qantas on Monday also restarts it non-stop flights between Perth and London.

Flight QF9, operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, is scheduled to depart from Perth at 6:50pm on Monday, landing at London Heathrow after more than 17 hours in the air.

The first leg of the flight, which connects Melbourne and Perth, will take off at 3:15pm local time, and land in Perth four hours later.

It comes just weeks after the Western Australia government confirmed that Qantas will restart the iconic Kangaroo route this month, three weeks ahead of schedule. The QF9 Perth-London route, the only current route that connects Australia and the UK, was originally scheduled to resume on 19 June.

It also comes as Qantas prepares for the launch of a new route from Perth to Rome on 22 June, with QF5 scheduled to operate three times per week initially. The airline said this flight is the only direct service between Australia and mainland Europe.

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