Qantas has added seven new routes to its domestic flight schedule as the major airline seeks to set up new travel corridors while the international flight market remains frozen.

The airline hopes to capitalise on pent-up demand for domestic travel while overseas destinations remain off limits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Flights from Melbourne to Wagga Wagga, Merimbula, Mount Gambier, Albury and Newcastle will be added to the weekly schedule, while travel routes from Sydney to Griffith and Adelaide to Mount Gambier will also be established.

The seven new routes coincide with the new Sydney to Merimbula flight, which started flying on Thursday.

QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said the routes would open up more travel destinations to regional and rural Australia during 2021.

“As the national carrier, we have an important role to play in driving tourism and supporting the industry’s recovery,” Mr Gissing said.

“We know there is significant pent-up demand for travel. These new flights will help more Australians explore some of the incredible places in their own backyard and drive tourism, which is so vital to the local economies of regional areas.”

Qantas will begin scheduling these flights in February and special fares of $125 one-way will be on offer.

The airline said the regional routes would mostly use 50-seat Q300 turboprop planes and would add 320,000 new seats to regional destinations next year.

“Before COVID, more than 11 million Australians travelled overseas each year, so these flights will help convert some of these international trips into domestic holidays instead,” Mr Gissing said.

From April, Melbourne-Gold Coast flights will double in frequency, while Sydney to Orange will increase from three flights per week to daily from February.

Qantas will upgrade its aircraft to a larger Boeing 717 on the popular Melbourne to Launceston route, which will add an additional 400 seats each week.

The airline also said seasonal routes such as Perth-Hobart, Canberra-Hobart and Brisbane-Port Macquarie would operate year round.

“All our aircraft carry fixed costs, regardless of whether they’re grounded or not. We’d rather get as many aircraft back in the air as we can because it’s better for our business, our customers and gets more of our people back to work,” Mr Gissing said.

“We’re also pleased to be able to offer locals more choice and competitive fares on these routes, most of which have been monopolies for years.”

The newly announced routes will have the following schedule in 2021:

  • Sydney-Griffith: Begins February 1 and will operate daily
  • Melbourne-Newcastle: Begins February 1 and will have 12 flights per week
  • Melbourne-Merimbula: Begins February 1 and will operate four times per week
  • Melbourne-Mount Gambier: Begins March 28 and will operate five time per week
  • Melbourne-Wagga Wagga: Begins March 28 and will run four flights per week
  • Melbourne-Albury: Begins March 28 and will operate four times per week
  • Adelaide-Mount Gambier: Begins March 28 and operates five flights per week.