Qantas Continues Aggressive Regional Expansion

QantasLink Q300 ADL
A QantasLink Q300 at Adelaide Airport. Photo: Matt Graham.

QantasLink will launch new flights from Melbourne to Burnie in north-west Tasmania from next month, as it also adds more frequencies on other regional routes.

The Melbourne-Burnie route will be served daily by 50-seat QantasLink Q300s, commencing 21 June 2021. The schedule is as follows:

  • QF2087 Melbourne (MEL) 08:05 – Burnie (BWT) 09:20
  • QF2088 Burnie (BWT) 09:40 – Melbourne (MEL) 10:55

After an initial launch sale with fares from $125 one-way, Qantas is now selling one-way seats on the new route from $179 one-way. Classic Flight Reward seats are also available for 8,000 Qantas points + $21 in taxes & charges.

“We’re pleased to be adding Burnie to our map again to help support growing demand and offer travellers and the business community more choice,” QantasLink CEO John Gissing said.

“We’re promoting these new flights to millions of our frequent flyers across the country and think they’ll enjoy the benefits of our premium service, including complimentary food and drinks, baggage and lounge access before they fly out.”

Mixed reception

Rex currently serves the Melbourne-Burnie route with two daily non-stop flights, and a third daily frequency via King Island. Rex’s airfares start from $99 one-way.

While some Burnie residents and businesses have welcomed more flight options, the local chamber of commerce has expressed reservations about whether Qantas is in it for the long term.

“Since the start of the pandemic Qantas has started or announced it will compete with Rex on nine new regional routes, all of which currently struggle to support one operator, let alone two carriers. Even at pre-COVID levels, these routes could not sustain two carriers running a full regional schedule, which explains why Qantas did not enter these routes in the last 20 years,” Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp said.

“Just last week, Qantas was at it again unveiling plans for Melbourne – Burnie flights, a marginal route at the best of times and certainly not one which can be viably serviced by two operators,” Mr Sharp said.

Rex has been lobbying the ACCC to scrutinise what it’s calling “massive capacity dumping” by Qantas and Virgin Australia on domestic routes.

To back up its allegations, Rex released data claiming that it only flew an average of 986 passengers per month, or around 33 people per day, between Melbourne and Burnie during January-April 2021. That’s 18% of the normal, pre-covid passenger numbers on the route.

But Qantas says it’s responding to a surge in demand for travel to Tasmania since domestic COVID-19 travel restrictions were eased.

“Tasmania has been popular with our customers since travel restrictions started to ease last year and these new flights will make it easier for travellers to experience the culture, natural beauty and wildlife of Burnie and its surrounds,” QantasLink’s John Gissing said.

QantasLink adds frequencies on other regional routes

Qantas is also adding frequencies on other new regional routes including Sydney-Orange, Sydney-Griffith, Sydney-Bendigo and Adelaide-Mount Gambier, which will each receive a second daily flight. The airline says it’s due to strong demand.

Recently, Qantas has also upgraded more Sydney-Coffs Harbour flights from Dash 8s to Boeing 717s, and re-introduced larger Boeing 737-800s on the Sydney-Canberra route around the same time that Rex launched Sydney-Canberra flights last month.

All of the routes mentioned so far, except Sydney-Bendigo, are run in direct competition with Rex.

It comes as Qantas adds eight Embraer E190s, operated by Alliance Airlines, to its fleet. These aircraft will be used to launch new flights from Adelaide to Gold Coast and Darwin to Canberra from next month.

Since the start of the pandemic, Qantas has launched a total of 38 new domestic routes.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qantas to fly Melbourne to Burnie

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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]