Canberra Airport has returned to seven-day-a-week operations as NSW and Victoria open to the ACT today for vaccinated travellers, with other states to follow soon.
It marked the day by announcing that discount carrier Jetstar will fly into and out of Canberra for the first time, launching its Queensland route from 17 December when that state opens its border.
Head of Aviation Michael Thomson said Jetstar would be flying return to Brisbane five times a week.
Jetstar had unveiled its new route in June when Chief Minister and Tourism Minister Andrew Barr called it a game-changer.
It was due to start on 2 September, but the delta wave of COVID-19 grounded those plans.
Mr Thompson said the deal had been three or four years in the making, and it was fantastic to bring it to fruition.
He said South Australia would follow NSW and Victoria and open its border on 23 November, then Tasmania on 15 December and Queensland on 17 December.
Canberra Airport had been operating at 2 per cent of 2019 capacity for the past three months but was now firing up for extra passengers.
Last week 37 flights left Canberra; this week, it will be 140 and next week more than 200.
“There is a lot to be looking forward to in aviation and a lot to be looking forward to in Canberrans being able to travel,” Mr Thompson said.
“A more important thing perhaps, more people being able to come to our Territory and region to support the businesses that have really struggled with COVID.”
Mr Barr said the gradual return of air travel would reinstate thousands of tourism and hospitality jobs to the ACT economy.
He also welcomed the return of international travel and looked forward to the Commonwealth providing more dates and destinations at this Friday’s National Cabinet to give travellers and industry more certainty.
He hoped to see the return of skilled migration, international students and tourists in the not too distant future.
An ACT tourism campaign is already underway and Mr Barr said the Territory’s 90 per cent-plus vaccination rate was also a national story that reinforced the fact that Canberra was a safe destination.
But he said the ACT would not be checking travellers’ vaccination status on arrival.
Mr Barr said the expectation was for steady progress in visitation to the ACT.
He also ruled out any direct flights to New Zealand any time soon, saying airlines needed time to recover.
Mr Thompson believes international flights will return to Canberra Airport, mainly from Singapore and eventually New Zealand.
He is also looking to business travel to pick up.
“We know Zoom is good, but it’s not the same as meeting face to face,” he said.