Qantas & Virgin Add New Routes to Beach Destinations

A QantasLink Q400 at Coffs Harbour Airport. Photo: Matt Graham.
A QantasLink Q400 at Coffs Harbour Airport. Photo: Matt Graham.

Qantas and Virgin Australia have announced new domestic routes to Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and the Sunshine Coast in time for the Easter school holidays. The airlines are also expanding capacity on existing routes to many Australian leisure destinations.

New Qantas routes

From 1 April 2021, Qantas will launch new flights operated by QantasLink on three routes:

  • Melbourne-Coffs Harbour, operated daily by Boeing 717s
  • Brisbane-Coffs Harbour, operated 4x weekly by Dash 8 Q400s
  • Canberra-Ballina, operated 2x weekly by Dash 8 Q400s

“The beautiful coastal hubs of Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour continue to be incredibly popular with travellers, so it makes sense to provide direct connections from other capital cities to make them even more accessible,” QantasLink CEO John Gissing said.

“With international borders closed, we want to make it even easier for travellers to holiday around Australia.”

Seats on the new routes are on sale from $129 one-way until 21 February 2021. Classic Flight Reward seats are also available.

In April, Qantas will also increase capacity on its existing Sydney-Coffs Harbour route by upgauging some flights from smaller Dash 8s to larger two-class Boeing 717s featuring a Business Class cabin. Qantas is making the Business seats available for sale.

QantasLink Boeing 717-200 Business Class
QantasLink Boeing 717-200 Business Class. Photo: Qantas.

Qantas had previously announced plans to introduce Boeing 717s on the Sydney-Coffs Harbour route around a year ago, but this ultimately did not happen due to the unforeseen COVID-19 lockdown.

The Brisbane-Coffs Harbour route is currently served by Link Airways, while the Melbourne-Coffs Harbour route has been unserved since Tigerair collapsed. Meanwhile, FlyPelican had been serving the Canberra-Ballina route between July 2020 and January 2021.

The new service to Ballina, the gateway to Byron Bay, will be the fifth new route Qantas has launched from the nation’s capital since COVID-19 began. Last year, Qantas also introduced new flights from Canberra to the Gold Coast, Hobart, Sunshine Coast and Cairns.

Qantas also recently announced the launch of seven other regional routes, such as Sydney-Griffith, Melbourne-Wagga Wagga and Adelaide-Mt Gambier. Most of those routes are in direct competition with Regional Express (Rex) which plans to start Boeing 737 flights between Sydney and Melbourne at the beginning of March.

New Virgin Australia routes

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia will launch flights on two new routes from the end of March:

  • Melbourne-Ballina, operated 6x weekly by Boeing 737s
  • Adelaide-Sunshine Coast, operated 4x weekly by Boeing 737s
Virgin Australia 737-800 at Canberra Airport
Virgin will use Boeing 737-800s for its new routes. Photo: Matt Graham.

These new non-stop Virgin Australia routes will operate over the Easter school holidays. They are currently due to end on 25 April 2021, but Virgin says it intends to extend both flights beyond Easter, subject to state border restrictions. Fares on both new routes, as with Qantas, are available from $129 one-way.

“The tourism industry depends on all of us getting out and safely enjoying the company of family, friends and great adventures,” Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said.

“We have all worked hard to get to a place where we can enjoy these travel opportunities once again, with the added benefit of supporting vital jobs in our tourism destinations.

“We are making it easier and more affordable for travellers to take a holiday with many more options for travel direct to key leisure destinations.”

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia are currently offering unlimited fee-free changes on flights booked by 30 April 2021, for travel until 31 January 2022.


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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]


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Andrew Sutcliffe

Any word on flights to Cairns for the upcoming school holidays? Fares from Mel are expensive at the moment.