After months of border closures, the first of many regular flights out of Victoria was operated on Monday morning after the state’s border to New South Wales (NSW) reopened at 12:01 a.m. after being closed since July.
This means that after four months of border closures, thousands of families will be able to reunite as Victorians can now travel to NSW without quarantining. The first passengers arrived at Sydney airport on Monday.
The border was closed by the NSW government to stop the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus (novel coronavirus), which had broken out for the second time in parts of Melbourne and regional Victoria.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited the border town of Wodonga on Sunday to thank the community for its efforts during the border closure.
“We never want to see this ever again,” she said. “This is the last time in our lifetime this border is closed and … it will be a whole new era for both of our states.”
Berejiklian admitted the border operation had been expensive. “It has cost several millions of dollars if you add up all the costs, but you can’t put a price on community safety,” she said.
With the border opened, Qantas Group has announced that they are ready to help ferry passengers to their interstate destinations.
“We’re going to see the kind of reunions normally reserved for long haul international flights rather than two cities that are only an hour apart,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a media release.
Qantas and Jetstar will operate a combined 17 return flights between Sydney and Melbourne starting Monday, with the capacity to carry around 4500 people.
Qantas and Jetstar sold than 25,000 flights within 48 hours after it was announced earlier this month that the NSW/Victoria border was reopening—giving the airline confidence that it can bounce back.
During the lockdown, flights on the Sydney-Melbourne route dropped to as low as one per day on what has historically been the busiest air route in the country and the second most active in the world—carrying 10 million people per year.
The Qantas Group CEO said, “As borders continue to open, we’re expecting a boom in domestic travel. We know a lot of people will choose to fly Qantas and Jetstar because they know exactly what service and product to expect, whether they are travelling next week or next year.”
Qantas is hoping that its domestic capacity will increase to 60 percent by Christmas, should the states’ easing of border restrictions occur as planned.
Also from Monday, Virgin Australia will operate four return services per day, or 28 per week, between Melbourne and Sydney and plans to increase flight frequency ahead of the Christmas holidays progressively.
There have been no recorded cases of community transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus, in NSW for 15 days and Victoria has not had a case for 23 consecutive days.
AAP contributed to this report.