Australia's flag carrier Qantas is planning a historic nonstop repatriation flight from Buenos Aires' Ezeiza airport across the Southern Pole aboard a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, it was announced.
The reason for choosing Darwin and not Sydney. Melbourne or any other major city in the country is that the Australian Government has a facility there for passengers to observe a mandatory 14-day supervised quarantine.
The aircraft chosen for the operation can reportedly accomodate up to 236 passengers.
The distance between Buenos Aires and Darwin is 14,683 kilometers (9,124 miles), which implies a record for the Australian company in flights operated with Boeing 787. Currently its longest route with these aircraft is Perth - London Heathrow, just over 9,000 miles.
Flight QF 014 is to depart from Buenos Aires (EZE) at 12:25 on October 5 and arrive at Darwin (DRW) at 18:45 local time the following day.
Darwin International Airport is the busiest in the Northern Territory and the 10th in Australia. It is the only air station in the city. The airport is located in the northern suburbs of Darwin, 5 miles from the city center, in Eaton.
In October 2019 Qantas flew from Sydney to New York, a historic event for commercial aviation which connected the tweo cities nonstop for the first time. The duration of the flight was 19 hours and 16 minutes. In November of that year a special flight between London and Sydney also took place.
Although 9,124 miles are not a feat in itself for a long-haul specialist such as Qantas, the operation between Buenos Aires and Darwin will remain an important event, due to the distance, the flight time and the connection for the first and probably only time time between the two cities.
The flight is one of a series of repatriation services on behalf of the Australian Government. Qantas has recently picked up the pace of these flights, saying it will fly 90 repatriation flights in 90 days. The Buenos Aires flight is one of those.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), which organizes and underwrites the repatriation flights, has announced over 55,000 Australians have returned since the onset of the pandemic, including more than 26,800 people on about 180 government facilitated repatriation flights like this one, which will bring passengers to the Government's large quarantine camp just outside the northern Australian city.
Qantas has twice attempted to make scheduled flights to Buenos Aires work. Qantas first flew there between 1998 and 2002 and again in 2008 via Auckland. Qantas ended those flights in 2012 when it switched its South American port to Santiago. At the time, Qantas argued Santiago made more strategic sense. But as a result of COVID-19, Qantas has not flown to Santiago since March 2020 and there is still no confirmed date to resume service.
Qantas’ departure left Aerolineas Argentinas the only airline flying nonstop between Sydney and Buenos Aires. But Aerolineas Argentinas went on to quit the route in 2014. Aerolineas Argentinas had been flying between the two cities for years. However, the airline only went nonstop in 2012, hoping to benefit from Qantas’ exit.
At any rate, the 18-hour flight to Darwin will focus on on masks, PPE, and social distancing rather than on premium services.
Qantas has made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory by Nov. 15 for those in contact with passengers and the end of March 2022 for administrative staff. The company plans to resume flights to countries with high vaccination rates such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Japan, Singapore and Fiji at the earliest.