QANTAS has stepped up and added Port Macquarie-Brisbane flights following an announcement this week by Virgin Australia to withdraw its service.
Wednesday's announcement that Virgin Australia will withdraw its service from Port Macquarie "for the foreseeable future" follows a statement by the airline last month that it was reviewing a number of NSW regional routes previously serviced by its ATR aircraft. This included included Port Macquarie.
Virgin said it would maintain its Brisbane flight on a code sharing agreement with Alliance when it resumes its services, but its new streamlined Boeing fleet would mean its larger aircraft could no longer service Port Macquarie.
Qantas seized the opportunity and announced on Thursday (September 10) it will help maintain critical transport links to key regional cities, following Virgin Australia's decision to exit a number of markets.
With one million travellers using the now upgraded airport each year, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council says the Sydney and Brisbane routes remain essential to the growth, economic development and tourism potential of the region
Subject to state borders opening, Qantas will launch new flights from Brisbane to Port Macquarie operating up to five times per week with the airline's Q400 turboprop aircraft. This will add more than 700 seats on the route each week.
Qantas will also look to backfill capacity on other regional routes, with flights added in line with demand and an easing of travel restrictions.
QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the new flights would help maintain travel options for regional communities and drive much-needed tourism.
"As the national carrier, and the country's largest regional airline, we have an important role to play in driving tourism and helping the industry get back on its feet," Mr Gissing said.
"We also know how important air travel is for regional communities, for residents and business travellers. We're pleased to be able to support customers with ongoing connectivity where there is demand."
The new Brisbane-Port Macquarie flights are contingent on an opening of State borders.
"We know there is significant pent up demand for domestic travel with Australians wanting to explore their own backyard," he added.
"We expect the new flights to Port Macquarie will be popular with Queensland travellers looking to visit the beautiful coastal town so we hope an easing of travel restrictions will make this possible.
"These extra flights are also another step towards our recovery and getting more of our people back to work."
The schedule and fares for the new Brisbane-Port Macquarie service will be available when the date for the border opening is announced.
The new regional flights come as Qantas steps up its calls for border openings based on medical risk assessments and a common definition of what constitutes a COVID hotspot.
The national carrier is now encouraging its employees - more than 20,000 of whom have been stood down since April due to border closures - to sign a petition in support of "Safely Open Our Borders".
What else is making news?
Thank you for valuing local journalism with your subscription. While you're with us, you can also receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.