It was confirmed earlier this week that Qantas would be launching the first ever direct service between Australia and London in March 2018, disembarking from an upgraded Perth Airport.
This serves as great news for Australian travellers, who – even if they have to transit through Perth – could save hours on their travel to the popular destination. It also serves as great news for Qantas, currently sitting without competition for the route, and for Perth, who will benefit from inbound and outbound travellers who take the convenient route as an opportunity to visit and explore Western Australia; a part of the country often passed over on an itinerary in favour of time on the East Coast or even a hop over the Tasman to New Zealand.
The service only became possible thanks to the introduction of new 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft, capable of comfortably travelling the 14.470km distance between the two cities, in what will be a lengthy 17+ hour odyssey – one of the longest in the world. While the Dreamliner’s maximum travel distance (about 15,750km) is still just out of reach for the major East Coast hubs of Sydney and Melbourne, there are still two cities in Australia with existing International Airports who would be capable of servicing the non-stop route.
The first is Darwin, in the Northern Territory, which sits 13,820km from London, making it the closest major city in Australia to the city. NT News has reported that a bid to make the city available for the route was considered, though Perth ultimately beat them to the punch. It makes sense due to distance, though less internal flights to the city makes it a more expensive route for inbound and outbound transit passengers. One of Perth’s major advantages is how competitive the airlines have become on the cross-Continent route, meaning a well timed trip could still be quite affordable – though Qantas have yet to reveal prices for the service. The addition of the non-stop service, however, would surely increase demand to the Top End, thus bringing down prices – but none of that would happen overnight.
The second is Cairns, in North Queensland, which sits roughly 15,090km from London. The extra 600km from Perth makes this a more expensive and unlikely route this early in the piece for the Dreamliner aircraft, but the tropical city is already a popular destination for British travellers and already the second busiest airport to not sit in the direct proximity of a capital city (behind Gold Coast). It serves as a start or end point for many looking to travel along the expanse of the East Coast. It would be a perfect hub thanks to its closer proximity to the major capitals, and is the sort of opportunity local tourism operators would jump at.
Both airports are already servicing International flights, making any upgrades to infrastructure that much easier, but, ultimately, the only thing that will bring the service to these airports is proof of demand – because these upgrades still bring with them great costs.
After Qantas proves the value of the non-stop service from Perth, other airlines will break into the market, and other airports will make themselves available for the aircraft, to meet demand. After all, the opportunities for local tourism and new jobs is a hard one to pass up – but as was the case in Perth, it does take the State Government’s money to help get these things over the line. In Perth, the price tag was some $14 million. Rest assured these other cities will be looking to see if that investment will pay off.