Flight to Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste is close to Australia, just to put that in perspective it’s 750km from Melbourne to Hobart and only 722km from Darwin to Dili. Unlike the Melbourne -Hobart trip Timor is a very different journey, destination and cost.

Airnorth is the main carrier and started flying from Darwin to Dili just after the Timorese people voted for independence in 1999. The number of services they fly each a week has changed a lot over that time depending on demand. The majority of the passengers are travelling for business (Generally the employer is paying). These include oil and gas workers who work on rigs in the Timor Sea, Embassy staff, government workers and aid workers. The non-business passengers includes volunteers and interest groups that support Timor’s development, Timorese seasonal workers and tourists. The service is good and the planes (Embraer E190) are comfortable however if there is a disruption to services you can put on a smaller plane (Embraer 120 Brasilia). This means that not all the luggage can come on the same flight and it can mean a trip back to Dili airport the next day to pick it up. There is a 20kg checked baggage limit, anything over is charged by the kg.

The new addition to the route is QantasLink. They started flying services from Darwin to Dili in March 2022. Hopefully competition on the route will increase the frequency of flights and improve pricing which will attract more non business customers, especially tourists. The reality is that there have been a few attempts at a 2nd carrier on the route in the past but none have survived. Having said that Qantas is considerably larger than the other carriers. We will wait and see.

There have been other air routes to Timor in the past. There were flights from Denpasar (Bali) to Dili several times a week through Merpati (I think they have closed) and Sriwijaya. Pricing was good and sometimes it was cheaper to fly from Dili to Denpasar and on to Melbourne than go via Darwin. There were weekly flights from Singapore through Air Timor and briefly there was a service between Dili and Kupang. I have heard that the Denpasar – Dili route may restart some time this year.
Air Timor have recently started Dili – Kuala Lumpur twice a month but it expensive, around $750 USD one way. More of a flight for business customers not tourists.
Domestic flights

Domestic flights have recently started between Dili and Atauro island with Mission Aviation Fellowship. There are also flights from Dili to Oecusse on the ZEEMS Government plane. They used to fly from Dili to Suai. The only way to make bookings is to visit the airport, ask around and find the office.

Back when East Timor was a Portuguese colony there was Transportes Aéreos de Timor (TAT) that operated between 1939 and 1975 (When the Indonesians invaded. It used to serve Dili, Oecusse, Suai but its base was in Baucau. The airline had 2 de Havilland Doves and did fly from Baucau to Darwin but in 1969 contracted TAA to fly this route. One of the de Havilland Doves has survived and is in Darwin’s aviation museum (Well worth a visit). It departed Baucau just as Indonesia was invading.