A PRICE war threatening to lure passengers away from Tamworth airport has sparked calls for the introduction of a second airline to service the city.
Regional Express’s decision this week to challenge QantasLink on the Armidale to Sydney route has seen a proliferation of cheap fares hit the market.
Many Tamworth residents sick of paying higher prices due to a lack of competition on the route said they would happily drive to Armidale and fly – if the price was right.
Local man Brian Walden summed up the sentiments of many when he posted a plea on The Leader’s Facebook page for Rex to make Tamworth its next destination.
“Come to Tamworth, Rex,” he said. “I’d certainly travel an hour up the road from Tamworth to get a better price than the rip-off prices Qantas charge.”
Sheridan Bradley said: “If you book ahead with Qantas, you can get a good deal, but if you can’t get a cheap fare or have to fly last-minute, it can be very expensive and I’d prefer to drive to save the dollars.”
News this week that if Tamworth retains the ADF flight training school contract, council and the NSW government would commit $15 million to fund an upgrade of the airport’s runway, could prove attractive to other airlines, such as Virgin.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said he envied Armidale for having the country’s two leading regional airlines servicing the town’s travelling public.
He said he was sure the council, despite its close relationship and satisfaction with QantasLink, would be happy to welcome any competition, providing it was sustainable.
“If it can be viable for Rex to make a move on Armidale, then I would suggest it would also be viable for Tamworth to have a second airline,” he said.
“We’ve had, over many years, discussions with QantasLink over the lack of competition and the impact that might have on their pricing.
“But one of the realities we’ve got to think about in all of this is whilet its great to have competition, we also need to think about sustainability.
“In Tamworth, over my flying lifetime, we’ve seen a lot of different airlines come and become unsustainable and leave.
“There’s a lot of (disruptions) that come from those comings and goings with the impact on jobs and communities.”