Australia’s 10 most exciting new flight routes
The direct route connecting Melbourne to Santiago de Chile returns on 17 July. Photo: Provided
With the skies over Australia finally returning to normal, airlines are experimenting with going to new places.
Several new flight routes will be launched in 2023, making some handy domestic connections and opening up better links abroad. Whether you want to enjoy Western Australia or the South Pacific, things are about to get easier.
Of all the new routes, these ten feel like they offer the most opportunities…
Melbourne to Exmouth
Swim with whale sharks in the Ningaloo Marine Park. Photo: Tourism WA
The Ningaloo Reef, and swimming with whale sharks, becomes much more accessible from April 30, when Qantas launches its new seasonal route from Melbourne. Transfer in Perth is no longer necessary to reach WA’s underwater wonderland. The flights are scheduled for off-peak hibernation in October, but they run during whale shark season – and the humpback whale swimming season that follows.
Sunshine Coast to Prosperine
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Photo: Tourism Pentecost days
New all-Aussie airline Bonza has finally been given permission to take off, with its first flight scheduled for January 31. The budget carrier has made Sunshine Coast Airport its base, with the first route providing an air link to the Whitsundays.
Ironically for an airline that strongly touts its Australian credentials, this route seems tailor-made for overseas visitors looking to hop between Noosa and Airlie Beach while skipping the lesser-heralded stretches of the Queensland coast. Will the domestic market buy in? We will see…
Melbourne to Tamworth
Photo: Tamworth Country Music Festival
Bonza is certainly an ambitious start, with 27 routes on its initial map. Most of these are from the Sunshine Coast to previously unserved destinations. But there is also a second base for Melbourne Airport.
Of the proposed routes, Melbourne to Tamworth is perhaps the biggest eye-catcher, opening up New England to the Victorian market.
But there are also many other eyebrow lighteners. Sunshine Coast to Mildura, Toowoomba to Townsville and Melbourne to Gladstone all look… bold.
Sydney to Rarotonga With? Jetstar
Photo: Cook Islands Tourism
Direct connections to the delightful, laid-back Cook Islands are back from June 29, when Jetstar launches its service from Sydney to Rarotonga.
The main island of the Cooks is still small – it takes less than an hour to drive around. But it still offers phenomenal lagoons, rainforest adventures, a looming central mountain and a smiling island-time atmosphere. Think Hawaii, but by New Zealanders and with a small fraction of the development.
Brisbane to Port Vila
With? Virgin Australia
The pandemic has essentially reduced Virgin Australia to a domestic airline, but it is now spreading its wings further afield.
Vanuatu will once again become a low-effort destination from 10 March with the re-launch of the direct route from Brisbane. Expect lovely resorts, but with a highly distinctive cultural influence. It’s also as much about the volcanoes and waterfalls as the beaches.
Canberra to Doha
With? Qatar Airways
One major casualty of the pandemic was the ‘International’ section of Canberra International Airport. But as of April 1st, that humiliation should be no more.
Qatar Airways flights from Doha once again make Canberra a potential Australian entry point. And for people living in Canberra or the surrounding areas of New South Wales, the return of Qatar Airways offers much easier access to Europe.
A word of warning, however: The resumption of the route has already been postponed once.
Cairns to Tokyo-Haneda
With? Virgin Australia
The spa at Tokyo Haneda Airport. Photo: Provided
Certainly, this route is mainly aimed at bringing Japanese tourists to the Great Barrier Reef. But it does open up some interesting dual hub holiday possibilities as a connection for travelers in other Aussie cities. Snorkeling one day, Sakura and sashimi the next, anyone?
When Virgin Australia launches the Cairns to Toyko route at the end of June, it will be a year-round service. The intensified codeshare business with All Nippon Airways (ANA) should also make exploring further afield in Japan much easier.
Gold Coast to Denpasar
With? Virgin Australia
Given Virgin Australia’s main base in nearby Brisbane, building up services from the Gold Coast seems potentially self-cannibalizing. But the re-opening for the rest of the world includes a new flight from Gold Coast Airport to Denpasar in Bali.
Scheduled for launch on March 29, this new holiday route is the only link from the GC to Australia’s perennial Indonesian favourite. If it works, it could tempt other companies to operate international flights from regional airports.
Melbourne to Santiago de Chile With? LATAM
The post-Covid connections to South America are gradually getting stronger, with the direct route from Melbourne to Santiago de Chile returning on 17 July. For Melburnians, this means no more changing planes in Sydney or Auckland.
LATAM intends for Santiago to be used as a gateway, as well as a destination in its own right, throwing around special offers to Brazil, Peru and Argentina.
Darwin to Singapore
Singapore Airlines is getting some competition on the Darwin to Singapore route from June, which will hopefully bring prices down, and give Qantas Frequent Flyer members an option to earn points.
It’s also an evening flight, which makes connections from elsewhere in Australia much more palatable.
Again, travelers from other Australian cities get an enticing twin hub travel option – Darwin and Singapore offer the tropics done very differently.
See also: Australia’s 10 best short-haul flights that save hellishly long drives
See also: Ten countries near Australia that do not have a direct flight