Qantas and Jetstar resumed flights between Sydney and Melbourne on Monday as the border between New South Wales and Victoria reopened.
The border between the states closed for the first time in a century back in July following the spike in coronavirus cases in Victoria. Today, as it reopened, is the first time people from Victoria are able to travel to NSW without going through quarantine.
Victoria was also treated to a further easing of restrictions on Sunday, with residents allowed to leave their houses without wearing a mask.
Qantas and Jetstar will operate 17 return flights between Sydney and Melbourne on Monday, transporting 4,500 people. Pre-COVID, the Sydney to Melbourne route was the second busiest in the world but, when the pandemic hit, flights dropped to just one a day.
The airline will also kick off a new Sydney to Mildura route today, which had been originally scheduled to begin in March. Later this week, flights between Melbourne, Newcastle and Ballina will resume and in December, the Sydney to Bendigo route will restart.
When Qantas first announced that flights between NSW and Victoria will reopen earlier this month, more than 25,000 seats were sold in 48 hours. And all these flights between the two states are tipped to increase Qantas' flight capacity from around 30% to 40% of pre-COVID levels.
"After a very tough year for a lot of people, this is a big milestone in Australia opening back up," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement. "It's going to be a really emotional day for a lot of our passengers. We're going to see the kind of reunions normally reserved for long haul international flights rather than two cities that are only an hour apart.
"It's a great day for a lot of our people, who have been stood down for months. They have been so professional through all this and we're thrilled to see more of them coming back to work."
Qantas has also launched a way for members to extend their Frequent Flyer status for another 12 months. To get it, members approaching expiry in 2021 have to book and pay for a Qantas operated flight between now and the expiry date, for travel until the end of 2021.
"As borders continue to open, we're expecting a boom in domestic travel," Joyce added.
The extra flights come after Qantas revealed plans to phase out its service and sales desks at airports from 2021 as it plans to focus on more digital options.