THE number of flights in and out of Mildura could triple before the end of the year as travel opens up again.

Amid lockdowns, movement restrictions within Victoria and interstate border closures, Sunraysia’s visitor economy has had a rocky past two years.

But with Melburnians free to travel to the regions from tonight and vaccination targets nearing closer, an increase in tourism can be expected – and there will be flights ready to bring people here.

Mildura Airport chief executive Trevor Willcock expected there would be a lot of pent-up travel demand as the country reopens.

Recently the airport’s schedule had been reduced to about 12 flights a week, with Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Broken Hill the destinations being serviced by Qantas and Rex.

Mr Willcock said from conversations with those carriers, the number was expected to increase to at least 20 flights by early November.

By early December, he was anticipating a return to about 30 to 40 flights per week.

“We’re just really excited to see people travelling again and coming back,” Mr Willcock said.

“We want to get the tourists back in and get business travel going again.”

After the initial return to a more normal flight schedule, attention could soon turn to the airport becoming connected to new destinations and new carriers.

Mr Willcock said it was “wait and see” at this stage.

“We’re always talking about new routes,” Mr Willcock said.

“Brisbane is the next obvious one for Mildura, so it’s always under discussion and we’re talking to a few airlines about that.”

He said Virgin Australia, which dropped its Melbourne-Mildura route at the start of the pandemic, was still in contact with the airport.

Ongoing talks were also likely with newly announced ultra-low-cost airline Bonza.

Bonza is aiming to fill gaps in the Australian market if given regulatory approval.

By MICHAL DiFABRIZIO