Air passenger services are an important link for any regional centre and now Tamworth has more seats each week courtesy of its major carrier and the city’s thriving airport will get busier.
The Tamworth Regional Airport is truly Tamworth’s “jewel in the crown” with much more potential than just catering for more inbound and outbound passengers. It is a hub for significant economic development ventures in a rapidly changing world where air transport and ancillary services continue to grow.
Few regional centres have an airport like it and the multi-million-dollar improvements opened last year take the Tamworth regional facility to another level. The development of its runway, with a capacity to accommodate aircraft the size of 737s, was one of the significant local government decisions of years gone by.
The inclusion of a Qantas Club lounge, announced yesterday, will satisfy a growing demand for such a service from business travellers and regular passengers.
QantasLink says its new services in and out of Tamworth, and others servicing Armidale, are about moving to meet future demand. The use of bigger aircraft on more services is also a positive initiative.
QantasLink enjoys a privileged position in Tamworth. The city has one of the busiest regional airports in Australia with growing passenger numbers each year and QantasLink has the majority of the business.
In the 1990s Tamworth was serviced by three airlines. Two of them did not survive the turbulence which struck the domestic airline industry and which accounted for brands such as Ansett, Tamair, Compass and Impulse.
While the additional flights, the use of bigger aircraft on more sectors and the opening of a lounge are all good news, the sticking point for travellers is cost.
Flexible return fares can range from $500 to $900 between Sydney and Tamworth and even the discounted non-refundable fares are significantly dearer than those offered by other airlines elsewhere. For example, you can fly from Newcastle to Melbourne on a discounted fare for $79 on a Qantas subsidiary.
While QantasLink provides an excellent service, the absence of competition means air travellers to and from Tamworth are paying for it.