TAMWORTH and Armidale district citizens will soon be able to make daily return flights to Brisbane on the 19-seater Metro 3 aircraft owned by
a leading Queensland regional airline
This was reported yesterday by Maroochydore-based Sunshine Express general manager Philip Laffer, which held talks last month with the Tamworth City and Armidale Dumaresq council representatives to see how a service could be operated.
The service is scheduled to begin on Monday, July 14.
Since the withdrawal of a Tamworth-Armidale-Brisbane service in January this year (Macair), citizens from the two north-west communities have been unable to fly to Brisbane and other Queensland ports except by privately chartered small aircraft.
While expressing "great pleasure" in being able to announce the new service, Mr Laffer pointed out however that it could only succeed if there was sufficient demand for it, as determined by ticket sales.
"Past experience has shown that due to technical reasons when they booked through Qantas, they may have often been advised that there was no direct Brisbane service (and therefore) we recommend that our customers refer directly to the Sunshine Express connection when making reservations," the company's chairman and chief executive officer, Steve Padgett, said. (Sunshine Express is a partner in the Qantas frequent flyer program).
Armidale Dumaresq mayor Brian Chetwynd said the news was welcome.
"It is esential that Armidale should have an air link to Brisbane for business, tourism and access to medical services," he said, when the service
was first mooted.
Mr Padgett said the addition of Armidale and Tamworth to the Sunshine Express network would not only allow connections to Queensland destinations with Qantas, but also overseas departures without the hassle of Sydney airport.
The weekday flights from Tamworth to Brisbane will leave at 2.25pm and after calling in at Armidale (at about 2.50pm) will arrive in Brisbane at 4.15pm.
The Brisbane to Tamworth flights will depart at 12.50pm and arrive at 2.05pm.
On weekends, Tamworth and Armidale passengers will be able to fly on Saturdays to Brisbane, (leaving Tamworth at 2.25pm) and return on Sundays (departing 12.50pm).
• Meetings between Sunshine Express and Armidale and Tamworth council representatives last month resulted in both councils recognising that if a Brisbane air link was to be re-established, there would have to be some financial incentives, such as rebates from airport landing and operation fees.