Flights direct from Port Macquarie seem to have edged closer to take off.
The Port News understands Virgin Australia is looking closely at the number of people from our town flying to Sydney and on to Victoria’s metropolis.
An airline employee based in the city told this newspaper her employer was crunching the numbers now. While a spokeswoman would not confirm this, she revealed the airline consistently reviewed flights across the network.
“There is no plans to introduce a direct flight to Melbourne at this stage,” she said. “We don’t ask guests where they’re travelling and why.”
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council corporate and business services director Craig Swift-McNair welcomed the airline’s interest.
“Our annual customer surveys show there is significant demand from the community and local businesses for direct services to Melbourne,” Mr Swift-McNair said.
“The proposed upgrade of Port Macquarie Airport will enable services from Melbourne using a range of aircraft up to 180-seat B737-800 and A320 type aircraft, and provide the potential for significant economic benefits through the forecast growth in passenger numbers and the number of people visiting our region.”
Tourism Association president Janette Hyde said Melbourne would be a more lucrative market than Brisbane: “Our climate is more consistent than Melbourne, so Victorians are more likely to travel here to escape the cold,” she said.
Retirees from down south travel up to our town in camper vans during winter months, but an hour and a half flight would expand the demographics of people able to journey to the Hastings.
“It’s hard for most people to find time to drive all the way up here,” Mrs Hyde said.
“A flight makes it that much easier.”
Business travel is another lucrative market, with the potential for Victorians to host conferences here.
A record 20,284 passengers were flew in and out of Port Macquarie in March, council figures show.
The association has developed campaigns with Brisbane, which Virgin began a route between in October last year, and Mrs Hyde said a similar relationship with Melbourne would be an aim.