Steve Evans

Canberra Airport set to strike deal with Tasmania for keen holiday makers | The Canberra Times

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Canberra Airport has negotiated new routes and is set to expand its operations as it struggles to regain trade in the face of the pandemic and border closures. Airport officials have finalised a deal to offer Canberra travellers another destination option, with Tasmania looming as the most likely spot for holidaymakers. Details will be announced on Tuesday morning and Hobart is a likely candidate after ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said recently he had been “putting the case to Tasmania that we are a safe destination”. The constraint is that the state has tough quarantine conditions on entry by non-Tasmanians – but preparations are being put in place for flights to resume if and when the rules are relaxed at the end of November. Canberra Business Chamber welcomed the expansion of services. “The more we can move people around the country and into Canberra, the better it will be for our visitor economy,” the chamber’s chief executive Graham Catt, said. “One of the things which has been a real issue for business confidence has been border closures.” He said business people were increasingly meeting face-to-face again. As border restrictions are being eased, new routes are opening up. Qantas has resumed flights from Canberra to Adelaide on four days a week. Virgin Australia is to resume to the South Australian capital on October 12. Qantas has also taken over some routes to the Gold Coast which were previously flown by Virgin. The airport’s strategy now is to seek out smaller airports and bypass Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane if necessary. The other arm of the strategy is to secure partnerships with small airlines as Qantas and Virgin Australia go through their ructions of bankruptcy in the case of Virgin and major job losses in the case of both of them. Recently, the airport started direct flights to Ballina as a gateway to Byron Bay and northern New South Wales. The service has now been extended until at least October 23. The airline there is FlyPelican which describes itself as “your local NSW airline”. Another regional airline, Alliance Airlines based in Brisbane, will begin a twice-weekly service to the Sunshine Coast and Cairns from October 23 now that Queensland has opened its borders. “There is probably a capacity to sustain four flights a week once it gets up,” Canberra Airport’s head of aviation Michael Thomson said. “Like all airline agreements, there’s an agreement for a period of time and you see how the route goes, but we’re confident it will stay as a permanent arrangement.” The airline in the new route is to be announced today. It is not well known outside the industry. On Saturday, Canberra Airport resumes seven day operation after cutting back services at weekends and looking to cut back in the week as well. Chief Executive Stephen Byron had set himself a date of October 1 to decide whether to “put the airport to sleep”, as he put it. In the event, border re-openings have led to expansion instead, though to nothing like pre-COVID-19 passenger numbers. At the time, fewer than a hundred passengers a day were flying daily in and out of the terminal which has a capacity of 22,000 people each day. What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor:

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