Although international travel may remain off the cards for a while longer, Australian airlines have been launching a surprising number of new domestic routes lately. Many of these new routes are on smaller regional airlines like FlyPelican, Link Airways or Alliance Airlines.
The new routes launched in Australia over recent months have taken advantage of heightened demand for domestic travel while international borders remain closed. With some state borders also remaining closed, we’ve also seen some unusual new intrastate routes launched.
Some new domestic routes have launched almost immediately after a state or territory has reopened its border to another state. For example, Qantas launched new flights from Canberra to Gold Coast within a week of Queensland reopening its border to the ACT.
Admittedly, some of the new routes launched are just replacing airlines that have withdrawn service, such as Qantas announcing Brisbane-Port Macquarie flights right after Virgin withdrew from the route. But there have also been many new domestic routes launched over the past few months that were previously unserved!
Yesterday, we even saw the announcement of new weekly flights between Newcastle and Lord Howe Island with Eastern Air Services, which operates 10-seater Beechcraft B200 planes. QantasLink has long held a monopoly on flights from Sydney to Lord Howe Island, which the NSW government supports by regulating the Sydney-Lord Howe Island route. But QantasLink’s guaranteed monopoly only applies to flights to/from Sydney, and even so, airlines may compete on a regulated route if they serve it no more than once per week.
With so many planes grounded, fuel prices at record lows, staff being paid by JobKeeper and airlines desperate for new revenue, airlines have started to launch routes they would never have previously considered. Before, when aircraft fleets were fully utilised, an airline would need to be confident they would make more money by operating a new route than they would keeping the aircraft on an existing route. Now, the bar is much lower… most airlines are prepared to launch routes if they’ll just break even. The alternative is to keep the plane parked – something no airline really wants to do.
So, which new domestic routes have been launched in recent months? Here are a few…
- Newcastle-Lord Howe Island on Eastern Air Services
- Canberra-Newcastle on Link Airways
- Sydney-Merimbula on QantasLink
- Canberra-Port Macquarie on FlyPelican
- Hobart-Canberra on Link Airways
- Canberra-Maroochydore-Cairns on Alliance Airlines
- Canberra-Gold Coast on Qantas
- Hobart-King Island & Hobart-Flinders Island on Sharp Airlines
- Dubbo-Ballina on FlyPelican
- Brisbane-Moranbah on Alliance Airlines
- Canberra-Ballina on FlyPelican
- Brisbane-Proserpine on Alliance Airlines
Sadly, there have also been many domestic route suspensions in recent months. Some suspended routes may not return. But there is some good news among all the doom & gloom. Hopefully many of these new regional routes will continue long after travel returns to normal!