Launceston Tasmania
Launceston is getting 3 new domestic services as airlines look for new opportunities to connect cities that aren’t in lockdown. Photo: Bridestowe Lavender Estate Tasmania (Source: Qantas).

It’s been a big week for Launceston Airport in northern Tasmania.

Virgin Australia this week announced it will add a non-stop service from Launceston to Perth, running 3x weekly on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays. The seasonal route will operate from 5 November 2021 until 30 January 2022.

It comes as Virgin’s inaugural Launceston-Adelaide service took off this week and Qantas also prepares to add Launceston-Brisbane flights.

The new 3x weekly Virgin Australia service between Launceston and Adelaide is the first direct service between the two airports since Ansett collapsed 20 years ago. And Virgin’s Launceston-Perth flight will be the first ever commercial service between these cities. Both routes are served by Boeing 737-800s with Economy and Business Class available.

Meanwhile, Qantas will add seasonal Launceston-Brisbane flights from November until March next year. These flights will also run three times per week on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays, and will be operated by single-class QantasLink Boeing 717s with only Economy seating available. From November, Jetstar will also increase service on the Launceston-Brisbane route from daily to 9x weekly.

Traditionally, most of the flights out of Launceston Airport have been to Melbourne or Sydney. But with Australia’s two largest cities in lockdown, airlines have been redirecting planes onto routes where people are still allowed to travel without quarantine or state border restrictions.

“The pandemic and the resulting border restrictions has allowed Virgin Australia to pivot our network schedule and open up new services that support the local tourism economy and provide more working hours for our people,” Virgin Australia Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer Alistair Hartley said.

Taking advantage of South Australia’s COVID-free status, Virgin has also launched Adelaide-Darwin flights this week and Adelaide-Cairns flights last week.

Qantas’ direct Hobart-Perth flight appears to have been doing well recently, which isn’t surprising given the risks and complications of transiting via another state these days. So it’s not surprising that Virgin has also looked to add a non-stop flight between Tasmania and Western Australia. There are also likely some incentives from Launceston Airport at play.

“Virgin Australia is continuing to work with Tourism Tasmania and Launceston Airport to launch more direct services from the Apple Isle,” Mr Hartley said.

If NSW, Victoria and the ACT remain cut off from the other Australian states and territories for an extended period, these may not be the last new non-stop routes we see connecting the remaining states that aren’t currently in lockdown.

But it will be interesting to see whether these niche new interstate routes will remain once domestic and international borders open again. Once this happens, demand for routes like Launceston-Perth may dampen and airlines might find they can earn more money flying their planes elsewhere.

At this point, Hobart and Darwin are the only two capital cities in Australia that don’t have direct flight connections. It seems niche, but if airlines can now make marginal routes like Launceston-Perth work out, perhaps Hobart-Darwin could be the next new route for one of our domestic airlines?

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: VA launches direct PER – LST flights

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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]