Qantas and Jetstar officials have announced they will begin slowly reopening domestic air routes across Australia throughout June, as coronavirus travel restrictions around the country begin to gradually ease.

Both airlines are set to increase their service capacity from the 5% pre-pandemic level maintained throughout the national shutdown measures, up to 15% by July 1st. In effect, that means an extra 300 return flights per week will be back in operation by the end of the month.

It’s understood the reinstated services will focus largely on travel between capital cities, with a large focus on the Melbourne-Sydney route. Canberra will also receive an influx of restarted services. Regional centres including Broome, Cairns, and Rockhampton will also benefit from the return-t0-fly plan, with intrastate flights in South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales to be included as well.

The increased domestic flights will come in conjunction with new COVID-19 health and safety protocols, dubbed the Fly Well program, which will see passengers encouraged to use smartphones to check in, be offered optional face masks, and will see planes undergo rigorous cleaning. Middle seats on planes will be used, per a previously-announced decision by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce that attracted criticism at the time.

Domestic air travellers will still be subject to the various border policies of individual states, which for the most part forces new interstate arrivals to enter mandatory 14-day quarantine, but those policies vary from state to state. Victoria and New South Wales, for example, do not have any policy of the sort in place. Whereas Tasmania has a hardline stance that isn’t expected to be reassessed until at least mid-July.

The increase in services will see the amount of Qantas return flights from Melbourne to Sydney increase from 5 per week up to 46 by the end of June, while the number of weekly Sydney-Brisbane return flights will jump from 4 per week to 21 in the same time period.

Image: Getty Images / Scott Barbour