UP, UP AND AWAY! Mildura Airport chairman, Peter O’Donnell, Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster, Mildura-based Qantas Q400 Captain Steve Dawbin, Qantas flight attendant Naomi McDonald, Qantas Flight Supervisor, Tamara Pedersen, and Mildura Airport CEO, Trevor Willcock, in front of the DASH-8 Q400 aircraft at Sunday morning’s announcement.

by John Dooley

QANTAS will re-establish direct flights from Mildura to Sydney, effective March 29, 2020.

QantasLink will operate flights four days per week between Sydney and Mildura with its 74-seat Q400 turboprop aircraft.

Mildura has been without a direct Sydney service since October last year, following a Regional Express Airline decision to axe its service between the two cities.

Since October 2018, Sunraysia residents wishing to travel to Sydney have had to do so via Melbourne.

On Sunday, Qantas announced that it was bringing the service back to the region, with the new service to be the only direct connection between Sydney and Mildura, saving travellers around two hours compared to flying via Melbourne.

The airline will also offer special discounted fares from $179 one-way when the service takes to the air next year.

The launch of the new route follows the success of QantasLink’s Bendigo to Sydney route, which took to the skies in April this year, and ongoing discussions with Mildura Airport management since June this year.

Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster,has also been pushing hard for the return of the direct service, something she discussed directly with Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce.

“I am very excited that Qantas have announced that they are expanding their services to include a Mildura to Sydney direct flight,” Dr Webster said.

“Today’s announcement is a great win for our region and something I had discussed with Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, shortly after being elected.

“This regional airport is one of the busiest, if not the busiest, in Victoria, with more than a quarter of a million passengers travelling through it each year. We can’t underestimate how important this decision is for our tourism, for our business and so I really welcome this announcement.

“By offering this direct flight, Qantas are supplying a service to many residents of Mallee who travel to Sydney for work and leisure, and I want to thank them for the commitment they are showing to our region.

Mildura Airport CEO, Trevor Willcock, said the service will initially see four flights a week from Mildura.

“I think Qantas would like to extend that to seven days a week with early morning departures and return evening flights, subject to demand and internal planning,” he said.

“The early departure times will allow business travellers to travel to Sydney and back in the day on certain schedules, or go for the weekend and be back on Sunday night in time for work on Monday.

“Currently a good percentage of the Melbourne flights would carry Sydney-bound travellers and now they will be able to go direct which is great news.”

Dr Webster said the benefits to the local economy will be substantial.

“I think it’s all about efficiency. People want to be able to get from A to B – in this case Mildura to Sydney – in the most efficient time possible, particularly if they are going to be connecting with international flights, or as Trevor has said, if they have business in Sydney, then you want to be able to get their and back in a minimum of time, and having the stopover in Melbourne delays that,” she said.

Qantas Link ensured that the Dash 8-Q400, named in honour of Mildura, was operating the service into the city on Sunday morning, something Captain Dawbin explained had been establish some time ago.

“Yes that happened quite some time ago. With Qantas and QantasLink’s commitment to the rural community most of our aircraft are named after a particular place, and normally within the network that we service, and I see it as positive confirmation of Qantas’ commitment to regional Australia,” Captain Dawbin said.

Asked if meeting the tight ‘slots’ associated with Sydney Airport will be a challenge, Captain Dawbin said Sydney can be tight, as can Melbourne at the moment.

“Melbourne Airport is currently undertaking some major works and that is limiting our slots into Melbourne, and so I think this probably gives us more options,” he said.

“Sydney is quite good at coping with the traffic loads, utilising the multiple runways that they have there, and so I don’t see the slots as a huge problem, and obviously the company have assessed this and it’s been planned for.”

QantasLink CEO, John Gissing, said the national carrier was backing regional Victoria with a new route and additional services.

“These routes are estimated to inject more than $3million into the local economies in Mildura and Bendigo which is great news for local businesses and residents,” Mr Gissing said. “As Australia’s largest regional airline, we know the value of connecting country cities and we’re proud to be connecting the Sunraysia region to Sydney once again.

“Mildura has a rich history and is home to some of Australia’s finest produce and wineries and we know it will be a popular destination for holidaymakers as well.

“It’s the second new service we’ve launched to regional Victoria in the past 12 months and we’re confident it will be a success.

“Demand between Bendigo and Sydney has far exceeded our expectations, which is why we’re adding additional services for the second time since we launched the service.

“Together with the Mildura Rural City Council, we’re promoting the greater Mildura region to travellers across Australia and the world as a great destination to visit.”