Qantas launches Sydney to Byron Bay route, first flights to Orange

With all eyes on domestic tourism, Australian airline Qantas has announced two new routes to regional NSW in a bid to boost tourism post-COVID.

From today, the airline will start flying from Sydney to the popular coastal town of Byron Bay – a route they haven’t serviced in 15 years.

From July 20, wine-lovers will be able to fly direct from Sydney to Orange in the Central region of NSW. Orange, which has become a hotspot for wine and food lovers, is a popular weekend destination for Sydneysiders looking for a country escape sitting just over three hours’ drive from the CBD.

QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the growing demand for domestic bookings is a positive sign local tourism is slowly getting back on track.

“As the national carrier we have an important role to play in driving tourism and reviving the industry that has been devastated by COVID-19,” Mr Gissing said.

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Qantas has launched two new NSW regional flights. Picture: James Gourley/AAPSource:AAP

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“These additional flights are coming at the right time for families who’ve spent much of the recent months confined to their homes and are looking forward to getting out and exploring their own state,” he said.

Byron Bay is no stranger to holiday-makers. Typically, the region has a population of around 30,000 which swells annually by a total of around 200,000 over all the holidays including Christmas and New Year, as well the Byron Bay Blues Festival weekend.

After a dire few months hitting the local tourism industry because of the COVID-19 lockdown, the new route comes just in time for the school holiday period which kicks off for NSW public schools from next week.

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Byron Bay is a popular spot for holidays. Picture: iStockSource:istock

Byron Bay normally attracts around 200,000 visitors over the summer period. Picture: iStockSource:istock

While a large proportion of the tourist influx during the holiday period travel by road, others opt to fly into the town of Ballina, just a 25-minute drive from Byron Bay.

Jetstar and Virgin Australia have serviced the route previously, with Pelican Airways also announcing a new direct flight from Canberra to Byron later this month.

“Byron Bay continues to be an incredibly popular destination for holiday-makers of all types, and was one of the most in-demand destinations for Qantas and Jetstar over the past month,” Mr Gissing said.

As for Orange, the region’s booming food and wine scene has become a hotspot for weekenders, especially from Sydney and Canberra, who spend close to $500 million dollars in the region each year.

Orange has become a food and wine-lovers hot spot. Picture: Destination NSWSource:Supplied

“Orange’s passenger numbers have been growing steadily in recent years as the regional economy has expanded, using the airport as a key connection. It’s fantastic that Qantas see themselves as part of this growing region,” Orange Mayor Reg Kidd said in February.

“After years of locals calling for the Flying Kangaroo to fly to Orange, the iconic red tail will touch down there for the first time in a few weeks,” Mr Gissling said.

“We are bringing much-needed competition to the route, which has been a monopoly for many years.

“These flights to Orange will make it easier for Sydney residents to discover one of NSW’s most beautiful regions and its world-class restaurants and wineries.”

The new routes come days after the airline announced thousands of jobs would be lost in the wake of the COVID-19 fallout, which has battered the aviation and tourism sector.

Last month, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce announced the airline will cut at least 6000 jobs across all parts of the business as part of its long-term response to the coronavirus pandemic, and will not resume substantial international travel until July 2021.

The new route announcements come days after Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce announced thousands of jobs would go. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAPSource:AAP

Mr Joyce told media on Thursday that the crisis had hit Qantas “very hard” and that “the impact will be felt for a long time”.

The new Qantas route will operate daily return flights between Sydney and Byron Bay (Ballina) with its Q400 aircraft. The flights are in addition to Jetstar’s flights from Melbourne and Sydney.

The airline will operate three weekly return services between Sydney and Orange on its Q200 aircraft from 20 July, with plans to increase frequency later in the year.

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