THE Moree community is celebrating after QantasLink was formally appointed to operate flights to and from Sydney for the next four years.
Transport for NSW on Friday afternoon announced QantasLink as the carrier to fill the void left when Brindabella Airlines collapsed late last year.
The decision comes after a community-driven campaign to woo the Flying Kangaroo, which flew the route for 21 years until 2013, back to the town.
An emotional Moree mayor Katrina Humphries said the campaign to secure the airline’s service would “go down in history” as a win for the bush.
“I’m immensely proud of the community with the way that they have behaved with dignity over the past couple of months,” she said. “The thing about this is that we’ve been in a very hard place for quite some time as we’ve been struggling with drought and this is the best result for morale for the plains.”
The Moree Airline Community Group spearheaded the campaign and spokesman Josh McGregor said the announcement was a special moment for residents.
“Even after Qantas had announced it was going to apply we were still on tenterhooks because it was out of their hands, so there’s a very big collective sigh of relief being breathed across the community at the moment,” he said. “We’re absolutely blown away and thrilled that it all worked out. The future is a bit more secure now.”
QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the airline was “thrilled” to be returning to Moree on a permanent basis.
“We are really pleased to be staying in Moree, providing a great service that the people of Moree and district can rely on,” he said.
“The Moree community’s campaign to get Qantas to return permanently was nothing short of extraordinary and their unwavering support for the airline was truly overwhelming.”
Transport for NSW’s Tim Reardon said QantasLink’s application delivered on what Moree customers requested and met all requirements under the Air Transport Act.
The decision comes after Vincent Aviation CEO Murray Collings revealed for the first time on Friday the airline had also applied to service Moree.
“Yes, we’ve put in a tender for Moree,” he told The Leader just hours before QantasLink’s appointment was made public. “I understand that the people of Moree are pretty keen on Qantas, so we’ll just go with what Transport for NSW decides.”
From March 22, QantasLink will offer two return flights – morning and evening – each weekday and one return flight on each of Saturday and Sunday.