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Victorian Connection

By Mark Beale

FOR Melbourne’s Fairweather family, last Thursday’s inaugural flight from the Victorian capital to the Whitsunday coast was nothing short of “incredible”.

“It’s saved a lot of time and money and the flight was really good – very smooth,” Mrs Fairweather said, en route to a sailing holiday.

Likewise, Jenna White, an emergency nurse at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital, who travels to the Whitsundays fortnightly to be with her mine-worker partner Ben Edwards, said the morning’s 10.30am arrival saved her five hours of travel time.

“We’ve waited all year for this,” she said, adding a Sunday afternoon service would be great. And the passengers weren’t the only ones happy with this outcome.

Between Whitsunday Regional Council’s mayor Jennifer Whitney and CEO Scott Waters to State Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan and Jetstar Australia and New Zealand CEO David Hall, there were smiles all round.

Mr Hall said when he last visited in November he was “really impressed” with the quality of Whitsunday tourism products and the passion displayed by representatives of both local government and the tourism industry to advocate for a Melbourne flight

“And I couldn’t have wished for a better outcome than to be standing here a little over six months later, travelling up on the inaugural service directly from Melbourne to the Whitsunday coast,” he said.

The new Jetstar service will bring three return flights to the Whitsunday Coast Airport every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, adding 50,000 visitor seats to the region each year.

It was complemented on Saturday by the arrival of the inaugural Qantas return flight from Melbourne direct to Hamilton Island.

Hamilton Island’s CEO, Glenn Bourke, said he was very much looking forward to the island being more readily accessible for Victorians.

“Victoria is our third largest domestic market after Queensland and New South Wales, accounting for 23 per cent of domestic visitors,” he said. “(And) with Qantas’s new direct service from Melbourne, we anticipate this number will grow.”

This is not the first time Victorians have been able to fly direct to the Whitsundays, with Ansett once servicing the Melbourne route.

Councillor Jan Clifford said she remembered being able to fly from Melbourne to Proserpine in the 1980s, although at a cost of about $1000.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan described the new services as a “return to normal programming”.

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