Qantas Is Flying From Sydney To Melbourne With A Turboprop

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Normally it is one of the busiest routes in the world. On your average day, you might see 70 plus flights operating each way between Sydney and Melbourne. But yesterday, Saturday, 11 April, things were decidedly sleepy. Virgin Australia had no flights. Tigerair is not flying. Jetstar had a single service down to Melbourne. Qantas, the big daddy of Australian aviation, had just one flight to Melbourne.  That flight was on a turboprop and it went via Canberra.

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Just two flights operated between Sydney and Melbourne yesterday. It is usually one of the world’s busiest air routes. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation.

On Saturday morning, a 74 seat QantasLink Q400 trundled down to Melbourne via Canberra. It took nearly three hours. In the evening, Qantas’ low-cost subsidiary Jetstar flew an A320 down to Melbourne. This later flight went direct.

If you think that’s an anemic schedule, the pickings will be slimmer next week.

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An anemic schedule gets worse next week

Disregarding a smattering of government underwritten international services, freight flights, and FIFO mining operations, Qantas and Virgin Australia have all but shut down.

Across its entire domestic network, Virgin Australia is only operating one service – a six day a week return service between Sydney and Melbourne. Twenty four hours prior, seats remain available on tomorrow’s flights.

Tigerair, Virgin’s low-cost subsidiary has suspended all operations.

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Qantas is keeping a Q400 aircraft in its operating fleet. Photo: Qantas News Room.

Next week, Qantas will have a single daily Boeing 737 return service between Sydney and Melbourne. In addition, on Monday, Friday, and Sunday there is a Q400 service via Canberra. Jetstar has a single service on Saturday.

It is a sad state of affairs on a route that is the financial lifeblood of both airlines. This route earns Qantas more than USD$630 million annually in revenue. Add in Virgin Australia’s take and the route between Sydney and Melbourne is a billion dollar revenue stream that’s vanished.

In a statement last week, Qantas told Simple Flying that some flights were only operating with a handful of passengers. The airline said that wasn’t sustainable.

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Qantas winding down domestic operations to three aircraft

Last week, Qantas held an online staff briefing. Executive Traveller reported on comments made by Qantas bosses during that briefing. Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, told staff the airline’s domestic operations will be reduced to just three aircraft in the coming days – and one of those will be a Q400 turboprop.

Qantas wants to maintain flights between the regions and cities. But the airline is walking a fine line, trying to maintain connectivity but also conserve cash. Qantas says it will also keep cutting services if needs be.

The biggest impact is felt in remote regions

As domestic flights evaporate, the real impact is being felt in areas far from Australia’s populated south east corner.

Next week, there are two flights next week between Perth and Sydney and just one flight to Melbourne. There is a single service out of Darwin to Sydney next week. In Cairns, there is one flight to Brisbane.

And these are the big centers. Other smaller places, often thousands of kilometers from their closest capital city, have lost their air connections altogether.

Regional airports have closed their doors. High profile closures (albeit not remote) include Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast Airports. Flying under the radar is the temporary closure of Alice Springs Airport.

Alice-Springs-Airport
Some regional airports, like Alice Springs, have temporarily closed. Photo: Andy Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons.

Essential workers, notably FIFO doctors and medical staff, are having difficulties returning to their hospitals and clinics.

Weekend media is reporting on one man, a remote area school teacher now stranded in Darwin after his flight south was canceled. He’s rented a car to make the 3,200-kilometer drive home to south east Queensland.

While Qantas wants to conserve cash, the Australian government is increasingly aware of travelers being stranded and the consequent knock-on effects. It is now emerging that the government is looking at subsidizing a minimum amount of domestic flights.

People say everything will eventually get back to normal. Maybe. But I think it will be quite some time before the skies between Sydney and Melbourne are criss-crossed with contrails once again. As for services to more the far-flung destinations, there might be some very long road trips before they get back to normal.

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Marina

If flights has been cancelled why virgin Australia didn’t refund be but only gave to me half of the flight value in credit that I will never be able to use ? This is a legal robbery and I’m disgusted .
Serious flight company refund me 100% and cash ! So what do you say in this respect?

JFP

Wonder what it would take for Lockheed to get out that deal with the devil -I mean government- and bring back a 21st century Electra? It would be more fuel-efficient and otherwise “environment friendly” than the current jets, and much easier to fill with a profitable load. The speed difference would be negligible compared to the reduced speeds U.S. airlines currently fly at.

Air Barbie

Perhaps during this down time staff can do thorough cleaning and audits and maintenance? Keep busy and keep the fleet in condition? How many flights have we all taken with broken this and dirty that? I’ve not seen properly cleaner plane toilets for years!!! Make it clean like you would like to see your own basin! This time could be used very productively in this “war”. Some sense needs to be used – making a teacher at their own time, cost and head space travel so far to then be prepared to teach, lesson plan, etc…. this is when capitalism is useless – just because there is currently no dollar value it has no other value? Just shows what a joke it all is!