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Australian border openings boost demand for flights

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* Virgin Australia reports rise in domestic, international demand

* International searches up 128% in last month - Skyscanner

* Virgin Australia to fly to Fiji from Dec. 16

SYDNEY, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Australia's planned reopening of state and international borders has led to a surge in flight searches and bookings, Virgin Australia and travel website Skyscanner said on Wednesday.

Virgin Australia said demand for domestic flights leapt by 125% in the past four weeks. Demand for flights to New Zealand were up by nearly 100% and for the Indonesian island of Bali by 217%, though quarantines remain in place in those destinations.

Skyscanner said international flight search volumes from Australia had jumped 128% in the month since the government said fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents would be able to leave the country without special permission from November.

Travellers returning to Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra will also no longer need to quarantine from Nov. 1.

Paul Whiteway, senior director for APAC at Skyscanner, said steps toward the travel opening for Australians had accelerated, with foreign airlines bringing forward flight schedules and more destinations opening to fully-vaccinated travellers.

Singapore said on Tuesday it would allow quarantine-free entry to travellers vaccinated against COVID-19 from Australia from Nov. 8.

"We've seen a steady increase in searches to Singapore as travellers were hoping for this latest exciting news," Whiteway said.

Virgin Australia said it planned to resume international services for the first time since the pandemic began with flights to Fiji on Dec. 16 as quarantine rules relax.

It will also renew frequent flyer partnerships with several international airlines that had been paused during the pandemic, when it went through a Chapter 11-like restructuring process and was bought by U.S. private equity group Bain Capital.

Qantas Airways Ltd, Air Canada and Hawaiian Airlines have also announced plans to resume regular passenger flights to and from Australia.

Singapore Airlines Ltd and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd have opened seats for sale on flights to Sydney and Melbourne that had been used for cargo only or carried a small number of passengers due to previous caps. (Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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