The Palaszczuk Government has partnered with Qantas and Air Niugini to deliver flights three times a week between Cairns and Hong Kong, following an extensive expression of interest and industry consultation process.
The search for new airline capacity came about after Cathay Pacific made a commercial decision to cease its Hong Kong to Cairns flights from 27 October 2019.
Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones said it has been a priority of the Palaszczuk Government to ensure that this EOI process addresses the needs of those in Far North Queensland across multiple industries.
Ms Jones said today’s announcement was a direct result of the tourism industry roundtable she chaired alongside the Member for Cairns Michael Healy earlier this year.
“Michael Healy has been calling me constantly to make sure we secure new flights to Cairns to make up for the shock withdrawal of Cathay Pacific,” she said.
“Tourism means jobs. That’s why we’re committed to growing this industry. Flights are crucial when it comes to supporting tourism operators to expand their businesses.
“Today’s announcement is also a great win for the agriculture sector – with the increased freight set to boost the reputation of Cairns as a trade and export hub.”
Member for Cairns Michael Healy said of the six expressions of interest lodged with the government, proposals for a Qantas freighter once a week and an Air Niugini twice-a-week service best met the needs of local exporters to maintain immediate access to lucrative Asian markets.
“What I’ve heard loud and clear from tourism operators is we need a new service between Cairns and Hong Kong. That’s what we are delivering today,” he said.
“The Air Niugini service also provides opportunities to build tourism visitation on the wide-bodied passenger service from Hong Kong to Cairns via Port Moresby.”
Mr Healy said the partnership between the government and the airlines would begin in late October 2019. The contract announced today will last initially for six months while all parties undertake regular reviews of the services.
“This won’t just benefit the tourism industry. The freight service we’re announcing today will allow our fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture industries to export more to Asian markets.
“The high value fishing, aquaculture and agriculture industries in Far North Queensland are heavily reliant on the air services from Cairns to Hong Kong as a gateway to Asia.
Mr Healy said it was estimated that more than $75 million worth of export product and around 180 supply chain jobs could have been put at risk from the ceasing of the Cairns to Hong Kong route.
“This government’s number one priority is to safeguard Queensland jobs. Today’s announcement is a huge win for local workers.”
Cairns Regional Council and Cairns Airport will also support the flights announced today.
Air Niugini Managing Director Alan Milne said he was delighted Air Niugini would be a pivotal partner linking the Cairns region with Hong Kong, starting from October 30.
“We know this is a significant service for the people of Far North Queensland and it’s now a significant service for Air Niugini as we continue to grow our airline and continue to explore new opportunities,” Mr Milne said.
“Air Niugini has been flying to Cairns for 44 years and it was the first international airline to operate out of the airport. Cairns continues to be an important hub in our network.”
“It’s also a great opportunity for people flying through Port Moresby to explore our other destinations domestically in Papua New Guinea and internationally Asia and the South Pacific.”
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning welcomed the news of the new services.
“This is a welcome outcome for our region and importantly secures the ongoing viability of a number of high value industries, including live export of coral trout, crayfish and aquarium fish, and their access to key Asian markets,” he said.
“Cathay Pacific’s decision to cease flights between Cairns and Hong Kong presented significant challenges to these valuable export industries.
“Significantly, over the past decade, more than 26,000 tonnes of airfreight, valued at $660 million, has been was exported from Cairns to Hong Kong and China.”
Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer Norris Carter said he was delighted that the facilitation process had reached such a great outcome.
“We were confident that together we could find a solution to ensure the seamless transition of freight services from the region. The Airport remains committed to working to grow services for our community.”Qantas Freight Chief Customer Nick McGlynn said Qantas has responded to the call from Queensland producers to provide direct international freight services out of Cairns.
“The new flight provides over 25 tonnes of freight space and will offer Cairns a direct, nonstop service to Hong Kong with connectivity across north Asia.
“We encourage Cairns and Far North Queensland exporters to get behind this freight link so that we can continue it into the future.