It’s been a week of some turbulence for Tamworth Regional airport.
On Tuesday, Virgin announced that it was reducing its overnight Tamworth-Sydney services from six flights a week to three, folowing a re-allocation of landing slots at Sydney Airport.
Yesterday a fourth airline announced that it would be running a Monday to Friday Tamworth-Brisbane route, increasing our capacity to the north.
From October 24 the much-debated introduction of paid parking at the aiport will take effect.
And the council yesterday said that they are in discussions with an undisclosed airline for a direct link to Melbourne.
While the loss of the Sydney routes is lamentable, the additional access to metropolitan areas such as Brisbane and, potentially, new direct flights Melbourne, could allow the region to tap into new markets.
A day trip to Brisbane, for example, would afford alternative business and shopping opportunites to Sydney – as would a weekend getaway to Melbourne.
In return, these flights could open up access to Tamworth and surrounds – a major regional hub – for business operators and tourists.
At present, a return trip to the Victorian capital with the two main players to fly out of Tamworth – Qantas and Virgin – requires a change of flights in Sydney. The stop-over can little more than an hour, but as much a eight, depending on how cheap a fare you are chasing. And a return fare – outside of the cheaper mid-week early morning flights – is upwards of $600 return.
This makes a weekend in New England cumbersome, time consuming and more often than not too expensive.
If an hour or more could be shaved off the flight time to Melbourne – and a cheaper fare offered - it would open up opportunities for weekend tourism to the beautiful New England area from Victoria.
Once on the ground they have Tamworth, the country music mecca, on their doorstep and are just a drive away from gourmet food and boutique shopping in Armidale, Gunnedah, Nundle and Willow Tree.
Tamworth could benefit from the same kind of flow-on effect that direct flights to the NSW North Coast have produced. Fights from Melbourne to Ballina cost as little as $250 return and have a flight time of around 2 hours mean it’s no longer a schlep.
Getting Tamworth the same kind of access is something worth lobbying for.