Domestic Air Travel Grinds to a Halt
Hundreds of planes now sit empty across Australia

The air route between Sydney and Melbourne is normally the second-busiest in the world. On an average day, Qantas alone normally operates 35 flights each way on a mix of Boeing 737s and Airbus A330s. At peak times, there are Qantas flights departing every 15 minutes. In fact, Qantas normally makes more than $1 billion annually in revenue just from flying between Sydney and Melbourne, making it the second-highest earning route in the world.

Fast forward to April 2020, and domestic air travel has ground almost to a halt.

Tomorrow, Qantas has scheduled just one flight for the entire day between Sydney and Melbourne. It’s on a 74-seat Dash 8 turboprop operated by QantasLink and the flight has a 40-minute stop in Canberra along the way. Yes, seriously. And it’s not even full – there are still plenty of seats available on that flight, including Classic Flight Rewards.

On the Sydney-Brisbane route, normally Australia’s second-busiest, Qantas currently has no flights scheduled at all until next Monday – when just one lonely Boeing 737 will depart at 11.25am.

Qantas and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar still retain a skeleton domestic flight schedule… for now. But from today, Virgin Australia will cancel almost all domestic flights until at least mid-June. The only exceptions are limited charter flights and a regular Sydney-Melbourne service that will operate six times per week. Its low-cost subsidiary Tigerair has already been grounded for around two weeks.

The flight cancellations are the airlines’ way of responding to a total lack of demand. Many Australian state borders are now effectively closed, with Australians being told to stay at home unless necessary for the foreseeable future. So, the current lack of demand for domestic flights is not surprising. In fact, this situation proves that the policies being implemented by governments across Australia are working as designed.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia have already cancelled all regular international flights since the end of last month. But Australia’s two largest airlines are operating limited international repatriation flights over the coming weeks.

Cargo flights are still operating, with some airlines even using passenger planes to transport freight.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: QF SYD-MEL down to 1 flight/day – via CBR on a Dash 8

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]