Council is calling on State and Federal Government backing to maintain a passenger air service to the Armidale region, following news Qantas Airlines will suspend its flight to the area from 10 April until 31 May.
The decision by Qantas follows similar moves by the other carriers providing regular passenger services to Armidale Regional Airport, as measures to control the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus reduce passenger numbers.
“While we fully understand and respect the tough decisions these carriers must make to protect the future viability of their businesses, it is vital this region is not left without a regular service,” Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray said.
“We’re looking to Federal and State Government for a commitment to underwrite at least a daily air passenger link between Sydney and the Armidale region.”
REX Airlines is stopping its flights from Sydney from 6 April and Fly Corporate ceased its link to Brisbane from last week.
It leaves the Armidale region without any air passenger services from 10 April.
“People are responsibly heeding government directions to avoid non-essential travel, significantly reducing passenger numbers. However, a reliable air connection is essential for professional services needed by our community, such as hospital and health services,” Cr Murray said.
“Our State Member Adam Marshall and Federal Member Barnaby Joyce both have outstanding track records in fighting for our community and we’re hoping they will both take up this fight with just as much determination.”
“The Armidale to Sydney connection serviced by QANTAS is a critical transport link for the wider region used by communities and businesses from Tenterfield, Inverell, Glen Innes, Uralla and Walcha. It is vital for the economic success of the Northern Tablelands this service be retained.”
Passenger numbers at Armidale Regional Airport have been on the rise, with approximately 131,000 passing through the facility last year.
“A large proportion of those 11,000 passengers a month are professionals bringing critical services to our residents, including some who will be even more important during this COVID-19 crisis,” Councillor Murray said.
“Council has a positive relationship with each of the carriers providing services to this region and we’re looking at all avenues to keep some regular air passenger link.
He said just one daily flight will be invaluable in protecting the welfare of our community and helping to minimise the impacts the COVID-19 crisis will inevitably have on our economy.
“We’re confident air services to this region will be restored once the crisis has passed. But in the meantime, we need a lifeline to help our community which is doing all it can to weather the storm,” Cr Murray said.
“Armidale Regional Airport and a number of the services based there were at the heart of measures to protect much of northern NSW during the recent bushfires. Now we’re looking for some backing to help get us through this next challenge.”