ADELAIDE, Canberra and Brisbane may follow Sydney as flight destinations offered by QantasLink from Bendigo after the commercial carrier put the city on its Australian route map this week.
The coup of attracting a commercial carrier will kick off the third stage of the Bendigo Airport redevelopment, now known as BXG, including a $5 million plus upgrade of the terminal and car parking.
QantasLink’s commitment is being lauded by the City of Greater Bendigo and the Victorian government as a means to drive tourism and attract investment from businesses who enjoy the accessibility of a daily flight to the city.
But businesses located in Bendigo will benefit from a greater choice of routes, particularly major employer Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.
It is understood business case research showed a route to Adelaide would be well patronised, second only to Sydney.
Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke said the Sydney flight from BXG was the beginning of a very productive relationship with QantasLink.
“We are looking for much more, we will support this, Bendigo and the region as well, and we look forward to what the future will bring,” Cr O’Rourke said.
“It is now nearly a three hour trip for people to get to Melbourne, to the airport,” she said in explaining why direct flights from Bendigo would work.
The flight between Bendigo and Sydney will take less than two hours and will operate in the mornings.
Market research conducted by the council has shown a direct flight to Sydney then on to an international destination was an attractive proposition for central Victorians.
With a strong uptake of flights, Cr O’Rourke hoped to see an extension of services into Adelaide and ultimately into Canberra.
QantasLink chief executive John Gissing wasn’t naming future routes, but he was confident the Bendigo to Sydney return route would be profitable.
“It is early days, but we are here for the long term and we would encourage the people of Bendigo to get behind this service, it really is a use it or lose it in the end,” Mr Gissing said.
He said one flight a day, six days a week on the 50-seat Q300 turboprop aircraft was the minimum service.
“We will start from there, we are confident it will go well and if it does, we will come back and talk about increasing that service.
“We will be doing some marketing at both ends of the operation.”
The council and the Victorian government’s regional tourism arm Visit Victoria will also market Bendigo in Sydney.
It is expected Bendigo Art Gallery will be a major drawcard – the first flight will coincide with the opening of its next major international exhibition.
The airline is also trying to influence demand by keeping the price of tickets, at about $189 one way, on par with what travellers would pay between Melbourne and Sydney.
An initial $129 ticket was included as a launch sale special, now available to travellers.
Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas estimated the service alone would create 25 new jobs and inject $2.8m into the local economy.
He said the bid to attract the Qantas’ pilot academy to Bendigo was still on the table.
“We have been given a very clear indication from Qantas what they expected for this, and we have met the requirements…we have acquitted our obligations,” Mr Pallas said.
Mr Gissing said servicing commercial flights and operating a pilot academy were different economic activities, inferring one did not necessarily influence the other.
He said Qantas would name the successful location out of seven regional candidates, early in the new year.
– Sharon Kemp