TAMWORTH mayor Col Murray believes a strong aviation sector is "critical" to the council's plans to grow the city's population to 100,000.
The council endorsed its Blueprint 100 plan, which focuses on the city's future over the next 25 years, at its May council meeting.
However, since then Virgin has opted to leave Tamworth off its flying schedule, a decision which has disappointed Cr Murray.
"In my opinion, it seems as though Virgin has abandoned inland Australia," Cr Murray told the Leader.
"Looking at their most recent flight schedule, most of their services are to coastal areas.
"I think Virgin's decision typifies what the economic climate is like in the sector at the moment.
"The coronavirus pandemic has really taken its toll on that industry, so its not terribly surprising, but it is disappointing."
In light of Virgin's exit, Cr Murray said he was confident another competitor would enter the Tamworth market in the future.
"I think the future for aviation in Tamworth looks quite bright," he said.
"A strong aviation sector is critical to the growth of our city and the council's Blueprint 100 plan.
"Having options when it comes to airlines is key, because without it, fares could become quite expensive.
"I'm confident another competitor will enter the market and when that happens it is up to us to support them whenever we can to ensure they can thrive and give us that choice."
New England MP Barnaby Joyce said Virgin's decision could prompt the start of more "milk-run" flight services through Tamworth.
"I think there is real potential for Virgin or another provider to include Tamworth on a milk-run service, which would stop in a number of places between say Sydney and Brisbane," Mr Joyce said.
"I know Fly Corporate operate that way at the moment and I think that could be a good way for another competitor to get a foot in the door in Tamworth."
Virgin's decision comes after BAE Systems wrapped up its training of the last class of Australian Defence Force pilots at Tamworth on June 30.
"I think Tamworth will always be in the mix to be used as a training facility," Cr Murray said.
"Given our facilities and our proximity by air to Sydney, Brisbane and now Melbourne, I think Tamworth is very well placed to host a training base."