MORE flights are set to land in the Whitsundays from next week with airlines reporting flights into the region are close to reaching full capacity.
Jetstar will recommence return flights from Sydney from July 11, flying three times a week.
Virgin Australia also began flying into the region again last week, with a return service from Brisbane three times a week.
Whitsunday Coast Airport chief operating officer aviation and tourism Craig Turner said these flights were “a real shot in the arm for holiday-makers wanting to have a tropical escape”.
“The pent-up demand out of Sydney, which is one of our strongest routes, overlayed with people not being able to go anywhere with winter … is going to provide a significant boost to the tourism economy,” Mr Turner said.
“We’re confident we’ll see Jetstar increase flights out of Sydney purely based on demand.”
Proof of high demand as holiday-makers chase warmer weather was evident in Jetstar’s Brisbane to Whitsunday route.
Mr Turner said the load factor, or the proportion of seats filled on a flight, was sitting at about 94 per cent.
“That just shows that if we can establish aviation routes, we have a whole lot of people wanting to come and experience what the Whitsundays has to offer,” he said.
“What we’re seeing now out of Brisbane is capacity similar to pre-COVID schedules.”
Mr Turner hoped with regular routes secured, the region would soon see a higher volume of flights and was pushing for the Sydney route to be increased.
“We’re in communication with Jetstar regularly to talk about our expectation for that route,” he said.
“Given it was a very strong route pre-COVID, we think there’s a significant opportunity to actually step it up.
“We think we have enough demand there to go daily direct out of Sydney to Whitsunday Coast Airport.”
It was originally forecast that a return to pre-COVID flight schedules would take about 18 months.
However, Mr Turner said recent flight announcements had fast tracked the region’s recovery efforts.
“By the end of July, we should be back to pre-COVID schedules, which puts us about two years ahead of where our forecasting was,” he said.
“It’s a significant result for the region and I think it shows how focused Whitsunday Regional Council was in reinstating and then driving volume (of flights).
“Competition on routes into the Whitsundays delivers schedules (and) delivers competitive pricing, and Alliance’s decision to be the first to the region has really assisted in developing a very strong schedule.
“Alliance committing to the route and then seeing what that does around competitive competition has really shown that the Whitsundays is absolutely on the radar of the airlines.
“We’re really confident we can have three or four different airlines flying in here for the benefit of the region.”
Source: Whitsunday Times