Rush for flights as borders to open
Travellers desperate to see family in Queensland and hit the Sunshine State's beaches for Christmas after an extraordinary year have flooded airline websites on Tuesday morning.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk finally gave the green light for Sydney-siders to travel north of the border which Virgin Australia said resulted in a flurry of travel bookings within hours.
When the borders are opened on December 1, the airline will operate three services a day between Sydney and Brisbane which will ramp up to seven a day by Christmas.
Flights between Sydney and other Sunshine State destinations such as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns will also increase.
Search for flights online between Sydney and various Queensland airports has returned to pre-coronavirus levels, evidence of a clear pent-up demand for domestic travel, according to Virgin Australia.
The border easing is welcome news for the airline industry that has been crippled during the coronavirus crisis, Virgin Australia's senior manager Russel Shaw said.
"We recognise our role as one of Queensland's largest employers and our ability to contribute to both the Queensland and New South Wales tourism economies," he said.
"The additional services will be timed to provide choice and convenience for customers, while at the same time give travellers the opportunity to do business and reconnect with loved ones, families and friends ahead of the well-earned Christmas break."
Qantas has also said hundreds of extra flights will hit the skies in the lead up to Christmas, with more than 1200 extra flights into the Sunshine State from New South Wales and Victoria.
From December 1, the two airlines will increase operation between Sydney and seven destinations from 36 return flights per week to more than 160, returning the group's schedule to about 60 per cent of pre-coronavirus levels.
"This is news that many families have been waiting so long to hear," Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said.
"Based on the demand we're seeing already, Queenslanders can expect to welcome a lot more visitors in the next few months.
"Australia as a whole needs certainty about state borders staying open, particularly when the testing and tracing framework is now so well established. We renew our calls for a consistent set of rules that apply nationwide."
Victorians could also be allowed back into the state on the same day if it reaches the 28-day milestone of no unlinked community COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
Ms Palaszczuk on Tuesday announced Sydney had now met the requirements chief health officer Jeannette Young had set to reopen the border, with a decision on Victoria to be announced on Wednesday.
"I hope this is welcome news for Queensland families in time for Christmas," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"Everything (in Victoria) is looking positive."
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive officer Daniel Gschwind said it was "tremendous news".
"It's a relief and a timely Christmas present Queensland has given itself and all the tourism operators in the state," Mr Gschwind said.
"It was critical to have this announcement now so we can salvage some of the summer season for the all-important interstate market. Hopefully the airlines can now respond.
"Operators from Coolangatta to Cairns will rejoice at the opportunity to get back to what they do best, which is to provide great experiences to visitors from around Australia … This really sets them up for a more positive end to the year."
Originally published as Rush for flights as borders to open