Qantas and Virgin will receive a temporary lifeline from the federal government to ensure key domestic routes between major cities and regional centres stay in the air. This will see Qantas reinstate its direct flights to Sydney from Tamworth and Armidale. However, Virgin will not be operating any services out of the region.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced that the commonwealth would underwrite a range of flights, spending $165 million to help the airlines after the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc. He said the move was about ensuring essential workers were able to travel, and necessary freight such as medicine and personal protective equipment could be moved around the country. "We know that a strong domestic aviation network is critical to Australia's success and today's announcement demonstrates our commitment, yet again, to maintaining connectivity during this pandemic," Mr McCormack said on Thursday night. "This investment will also help Australians returning from overseas, who find themselves in a different city after 14 days of mandatory quarantine, complete their journey home safely." It covers flights from all state and territory capitals, along with Albury, Alice Springs, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Kalgoorlie, Mildura, Port Lincoln, Rockhampton, Tamworth, Townsville and Wagga Wagga. The new arrangements will last for eight weeks with the government set to undertake a review which will determine if more support is needed. In statements released last night, both airlines supported the move. Qantas and Jetstar said it would see the number of passenger flights increase from 105 per week currently to 164 per week to all capital cities and 36 regional destinations. "These flights will also provide critical freight capacity, which has fallen significantly as commercial air networks have shrunk," the statement said. "Much of the bellyspace on these flights will be used for mail and other urgent shipments, including medical equipment. "The temporary regional network focuses on towns that are more than two hours’ drive from key transport hubs."