Cr Neil Fisher at Rockhampton airport with a 747 on the tarmac.
Cr Neil Fisher at Rockhampton airport with a 747 on the tarmac. Allan Reinikka ROK260717a747airp

More flight routes could be on the cards for Rockhampton

DIRECT flights from Rockhampton to Sydney could be on the cards with a new business case put forward by the council.

Following the announcement earlier in the week that a business case had been made for flights from Rockhampton to Longreach, Rockhampton Regional Council has said a business case had also been prepared for flights from Rockhampton to Sydney.

As part of the business case, the council has said it would work with relevant airlines to build "a sustainable case that worked for both parties”, as well as conduct passenger surveys throughout March to "identify opportunities for new route development”.

This comes amid a public outcry this week about frustrations with the higher cost of flights to Brisbane and the lack of services to other major centres such as Sydney, Melbourne and North Queensland.

One call for cheaper flights came from Yeppoon woman Ruth Renton-Power, who said the cost of airfares in Rockhampton was grounding tourism in the region (see more on page 20).

"The cost of an aeroplane ticket, even one way to fly within my own state, is out of my league,” she said.

Neil Fisher, chair of the Rockhampton Airport said the business case had been presented to both Virgin and Qantas to consider, and council was confident they had presented a strong case.

"We know that a high number of users will be VFR, visiting friends and relatives,” he said.

"We know there will also be a large business component because that has been shown multiple times through our passenger surveys.

"I think we still have a lot of development tourism wise, but we also have a lot of unique attractions here so tourism also makes up a number of potential customers.”

Confident that more destination options for Central Queenslanders would only improve the already high domestic passenger numbers at Rockhampton Airport, Mr Fisher said there was a lot of community support for this new travel route.

"In previous passenger surveys we have identified Townsville, Gold Coast, Sydney and Newcastle as key departure points,” he said.

"So it does show there is the support there and that there are people flying into Rockhampton from those points.”

Cr Fisher said the potential new flight route would help tap into the Fly In-Fly Out market which already made up a large portion of domestic passengers.

"I know that if you go to the airport on most Monday mornings you will find that there is maybe up to a couple of dozen people who have flown in from Newcastle, who are on their way out to one of the mines west of Rockhampton,” he said.

"They then fly home on a Thursday or a Friday morning.

"So we do have that data that shows those really key departure points, and that adds to the business case.”

Passenger numbers to back up the business case are vital, and according to the latest Rockhampton Airport Monthly Operations Report and Cr Fisher, the numbers speak for themselves.

The report shows a 2.1 per cent growth in January numbers, rising from 40,066 in January 2018 to 40,929 in January 2019, as well as a two per cent increase in year on year growth.

"Airlines have got to have known passengers, passengers in seats are what makes the service,” he said.

"While we would love to have as many destinations as possible, unless you have the data to prove that there are enough people who will board that plane it makes it very hard.

"Airlines will tell you very clearly if they think a business case is worth investing in.”

With airport staff communicating regularly with passengers, Cr Fisher said the feedback helped keep them on the right track in terms of what the customers wanted from the service.

"We spend a lot of time talking with passengers at the airport to see what their needs are and how we can improve,” he said.

"It doesn't happen overnight, sometimes we have to work hard at it and we are going to keep working to get the best possible service we can provide.”

Now that Rockhampton Airport has provided both Qantas and Virgin with the business case for flights between Rockhampton and Sydney, it is now up to the individual airlines to assess the business case and work out if it is viable for them.

YOUR SAY: Where do you want to fly to?

WHEN The Morning Bulletin asked readers where they wanted to fly to from Rockhampton, the response was huge. Here are just some of your thoughts on possible flight routes:

Garrett Wells: New Zealand, Sydney and Melbourne, but I'd settle for not having to sell a kidney just to get to Brisbane TBH.

Robyn Thomasson: Sydney Melbourne, we need cheaper flights to get the tourist here as well.

Cathryn White: Just lowering the prices from Rocky to Brisbane would be a good start.

Darryl Whyte: Melbourne but bring back Jetstar and Tiger to get cheaper flights to Brisbane would be a good start.

Jan Stuart: New Zealand, Sydney, Gold Coast, Melbourne

Stacey Hill: Agree on needing cheaper flights to Brisbane! When you can fly internationally cheaper than you can fly within the same state, something is not right.

Jo Keleher: Melbourne for a start...and bring back direct to Sydney. And lower the cost from Rocky to Brisbane.

Helen Goode: Sunshine Coast

Amanda Pointing: Direct to Darwin

Heidi Voegelin: Townsville

Maree Larkin: Newcastle or Sydney would be great

Tania Wockner Brannock: Townsville, Darwin.

Alyson Ballard: Longreach

Lynda Kloot: Jetgo were an amazing company. Flew with them for the 3 years they operated. Fantastic new planes and great service, just sad no one supported them. Privately operated. Shame they didn't get the support they deserved.

Debbie Williams: Tassie

Amy Johnstone: Toowoomba

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