POLITICAL leaders have weighed in on the flight slot problem plaguing Tamworth amid calls for certainty on return flights to Sydney.
While Tamworth Business Chamber president Jye Segboer has demanded certainty surrounding flights, tourism minister and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said a lack of slots was concerning for regional NSW.
Virgin Australia has said it would in April reinstate six slots that were taken in a seasonal flight reshuffle in November. Mr Marshall said he wasn’t familiar with Virgin’s schedule in Tamworth, but believed reduced slots, anywhere, could have a detrimental impact on local tourism.
“In the case of Virgin, they have plenty of slots and made a commercial decision where to apportion the slots as any airline can,” he said.
“We saw this two and a half years ago when Rex moved a number of their slots to Armidale so they could begin their air service in competition with Qantas. That has been very effective and has seen an increase of nearly 25,000 people going through the airport over the last couple of years as a result.
”The proof is in the pudding and it works when you have two airlines running side by side at the one port. Obviously anytime you see a reduction in air services to a location it would certainly have an impact on the number of people travelling and the likelihood to get people to travel.”
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson is in discussions with aviation bodies.
“We want to continue that conversation and looking at increasing slots per hour for regional carriers, and that is the broader picture,” he said.
“Inconsistency of services is a real concern in my view, once you remove a particularly time slot, people look elsewhere and quite often won’t go back.
“If you don’t have consistency you’re going to lose the market and it really impacts on people who need to travel.”
In a statement, Virgin Australia said: “With any route on our network it is important to balance capacity with customer demand. We continually review our network and make changes where necessary.”
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