TAMWORTH mayor Col Murray has blasted plans to cut the number of Virgin flights to Sydney in a move he claims will hinder regional growth.
Virgin Australia will reduce its overnight Tamworth-Sydney services from six flights a week to three, following a re-allocation of landing slots at Sydney Airport.
Cr Murray feared slashing the popular evening service could leave business commuters high and dry, as well as a serious hole in the economy.
“Tamworth has now joined other regional areas which have felt the brunt of a reduction in flight services because Sydney airport cannot accommodate the demand from passengers,” Cr Murray said.
“There has been substantial growth in our passenger numbers and in part this is because the three carriers servicing Tamworth Regional Airport are providing flights to meet the needs of the travelling public.
“The overnight Virgin service was well-patronised because it what was the region’s business community wanted.”
Cr Murray said Tamworth Regional Airport recorded a 14.6 per cent growth in passenger arrivals over the last year, with the total number of passengers expected to reach more than 200,000 this year.
Cr Murray stressed council would continue working closely with Virgin to have the slots reinstated.
Virgin sought to continue operating six overnight Tamworth-Sydney flights during the 2016/17 Northern Winter period, but has been granted just three slots as of October 30.
“Virgin Australia will continue to request additional slots that support overnight services on other days of the week as a part of our ongoing commitment to Tamworth and its residents,” a Virgin spokesperson said.
“The overnight services are in addition to the six return services per week that Virgin Australia operates between Tamworth and Sydney.”
A Sydney Airport spokesperson confirmed slots were managed by a national body, but the airport recognised the importance of regional flights.
“Slots at Sydney Airport are managed by Airport Coordination Australia and airlines determine the frequency of their services,” the said.
“Sydney Airport supports our regional airline partners and recognises the importance of facilitating connectivity to regional communities across NSW through our extensive route network.”