PRESSURE is mounting on Tamworth Regional Council to secure an airline willing to resume flights to the Queensland capital.
The Tamworth-Brisbane route has remained vacant since Brindabella Airlines abruptly went belly-up in December last year.
Regional Express (Rex) last week threw in the option of flying the route as a sweetener in its negotiations with council over taking on the Tamworth to Sydney service.
But council’s reluctance to bow to Rex’s demand that it be spared paying security screening fees has placed the offer in jeopardy.
Cairns-based outfit Skytrans has also expressed interest in the route, however chronic congestion at Brisbane airport is making it hard to devise a suitable schedule.
One man desperate for the service to resume is local automotive mechanic Grant Sweetman, who was forced to quit his fly-in, fly-out job in Queensland last week.
Mr Sweetman was the manager of a power station in Emerald and regularly flew directly to Brisbane on Brindabella at a cost of about $250 a week.
But, when the airline collapsed, he had no choice but to pay hundreds of dollars more for return flights between Tamworth and Sydney and Sydney and Brisbane out of his own pocket.
The extra flights meant Mr Sweetman, who lives on a farm outside of Limbri, was losing a “big chunk” of his wage every week.
“It just priced me right out of it,” he said. “I was hoping for another airline to pick it up and got pretty excited when (Vincent Aviation) got the Narrabri run, but there was nothing for Tamworth.
“I have a mortgage and I still have to pay it off. If an airline comes back and flies into Brisbane, I’ll have my job back tomorrow. The only reason I left is because of the price of flights.”
Council’s director of business and events John Sommerlad said he was confident a new carrier would take up the Tamworth-Brisbane service.
He said the council had been in discussions “with a number of operators” to fill the void following the collapse of Brindabella.