Council is in talks with airline companies to start a passenger flight service which could connect Bendigo to Adelaide and Sydney next year.
Presentation and assets director Craig Lloyd said the City of Greater Bendigo had “started conversations with regional airline operators” and was now surveying key Bendigo businesses.
“We’ve undertaken to discuss further possible aviation routes and look at pricing with them,” Mr Lloyd said.
“We want to see what their requirements are and what kind of ticket costs would be suitable in order for them to switch to Bendigo, rather than fly from Melbourne.
“Once we’ve finished that process, we’ll take those finding back to the airlines we talked to to see if any are interesting in using Bendigo as a new route.”
The director said the city would be in a better position to outline possible destinations and a time-frame “in a month or so,” however the airports’ $15 million upgraded runway is scheduled to be operational by February.
Keech Australia chief executive Herbert Hermens said Sydney and Adelaide would be ideal starting destinations.
But the Bendigo-based manufacturer – who also sits on the airport advisory committee – said that could expand to include Mildura, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, Orange, Bathurst and even Melbourne in future.
“The reason why Keech is involved is that we think a regional airport of this size is critical to our company's long-term success – to put it mildly,” Mr Hermens said.
“And very few regional cities prosper without a decent airport.”
Mr Hermens said the 90 minute drive to Tullamarine and need to arrive an hour before take-off meant companies lost “full-day productivity” and spent money on accommodation and car storage.
“That lost productivity time is crucial to a business trying be globally relevant, he said.
Local businesses with a national focus would also be served by flights to Sydney, Australian Turntable Company executive chairman Paul Chapman said.
“Most of our business is out of Sydney, but it’s growing further north in Newcastle, the Gold Coast...so we’d be mainly interested in flights to the Eastern Seaboard at this stage, ” Mr Chapman said.
“But we have people who travel interstate all the time, and having them go to Melbourne and leave their cars there is an impost.”
“So flights from Bendigo would be a great outcome for Australian Turntables – and for Bendigo.”
Possible future destinations:
Sydney is leading the contenders for possible destinations due to its status as a financial centre and its high number of international flights, Mr Hermens said. Adelaide is also a likely destination due to major employers such as the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and defence industry manufacturers such as Thales, which have business interests in the South Australian capital.
But why would Orange be a potential future destination? Why would Melbourne be worth the trouble? The Keech chief ran through a list of some possible future destinations and explained their attraction.
Mildura, Orange, and Bathurst
“La Trobe University is based in Mildura, Shepparton, Albury-Wodonga and Melbourne,” he said.
“Think about the amount of time educators spend travelling on the road to those places – and not just university but all tertiary educators.
“There is an opportunity for Mildura and Bendigo to build a better relationship as people in rural industries will often have shared interests – for example there is a vet who has facilities in both towns and has a jet which goes between them.
“With towns like Orange and Bathurst, there is an opportunity to build co-operation between regional cities like these.”
“Queensland is very important for us and Brisbane could also make a terrific tourist destination,” Mr Hermens said.
“And Bendigo has a wonderful art scene now, this could just be another added-value way of promoting Bendigo as a tourist destination.”
“When the mining boom was on we had a lot of fly-in-fly-out based workers in Bendigo, driving to Melbourne and flying across to Perth,” he said.
The mining boom is over, but there are still a lot of Bendigo manufacturers with links to the mining industry in central and Western Australia.
“I personally believe that there could be flights to Melbourne in the future,” Mr Hermens said.
“For a business person to drive to an office in the CBD and find a park, that can take more than two hours each way, as opposed to a 30 minute flight.
“So we would at least look at it and think about the cost of driving a car and finding a park .”
“The fundamental case underpinning the Toowoomba airport was freight – that the freight could carry the produce from the food bowl in which Toowoomba sits,” he said.
”There’s every case now to be made for Bendigo to act as freight hub for regional Victoria…I don't know why we wouldn’t think international in the future.”
Indeed, a City of Greater Bendigo spokesperson said council was currently undertaking a freight study, which “would provide further information about how the airport may best accommodate these movements into the future”.