CENTRAL Victorian business leaders have welcomed the announcement of direct flights between Bendigo and Sydney.
Be.Bendigo chief executive Dennis Bice said a number of Bendigo-based businesses often travelled to Sydney as part of offering services along the eastern seaboard.
“It will be adding value to them in terms of time and the ability to be more efficient and effective,” Mr Bice said.
Bendigo Manufacturing Group chair Mark Brennan said being able to connect with international flights from Sydney airport would be ‘enormously beneficial’.
“We do a lot of export out of Bendigo,” he said.
He said passengers on the new service, which starts in March, would be in Sydney in the time it would otherwise take to get to Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport.
What’s more, Mr Brennan said the flight schedule made day trips to Sydney feasible.
Flights from Bendigo will depart between 6.30am – 9.10am, Monday – Saturday.
Services from Sydney will depart at 5.25pm and land in Bendigo at 7.25pm on weekdays and Sundays.
J.L. King & Co director Michael Robertson said the new QantasLink service could shave hours off travel time for the food supplier’s sales representatives, who travel to Sydney once a month.
He expected the flights would also make it easier to invite prospective clients to Bendigo to visit the company’s manufacturing facilities.
A spokesperson for Thales said the new route was a strong sign of confidence in Bendigo and the region.
The French multinational has a factory in North Bendigo and an Australian headquarters in Sydney.
Bendigo Bank managing director Marnie Baker said the new service was an important step that forged even better connections between regional and metropolitan Australia.
“For Bendigo and Adelaide Bank – a business located in every capital city across Australia and with a significant operation in New South Wales – it means fulfilling our ambition to become Australia’s bank of choice is now more readily achievable with shorter travel, better links and greater connectivity.”
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas and the City of Greater Bendigo are hopeful the new Qantas service between Bendigo and Sydney will add weight to the bid to secure a Qantas Pilot Academy.
But QantasLink chief executive John Gissing wasn’t giving anything away during this morning’s media conference, describing the new flights and the pilot school as ‘very distinct activities’.
“To set up an air service is a very different economic position for us to take… it’s a very different workforce,” Mr Gissing said.
He mentioned the ‘great relationship’ Qantas had with the council and the community in Bendigo, and said there was ‘a lot of energy and capability in the bid’.
“And, of course, we wish Bendigo all the best in that process,” Mr Gissing said.
Bendigo is one of seven destinations under consideration for the second Qantas Pilot Academy.
Toowoomba was announced as the site for the first pilot academy in September.
Mr Gissing said working through the remaining bids was ‘taking a little bit longer than we had originally planned’.
“We’re very confident we’ll be able to announce the winner of the second site early in the new year,” he said.
Mr Pallas said the state government had done all it could to meet the competitive requirements of the bid.
“We’ve put our best foot forward,” he said.
“The state government has been very strong in its advocacy and support of the pilot training facility coming here.
He said access to Sydney, combined with 300 days of clear flying in Bendigo, bode well for the city.
“We think a pilot academy here would be the cherry on top,” Mr Pallas said.
City of Greater Bendigo chief executive Craig Niemann said the city looked forward to an announcement in the new year.
TICKETS are now on sale for Qantas flights between Sydney and Bendigo.
From March 31, 2019, QantasLink will operate flights six days a week with its 50-seat Q300 turboprop aircraft, and daily during the peak summer season.
The first flight will leave from Sydney on March 31, 2019, and touch down in Bendigo in the evening.
Bendigo will have its first flight to Sydney on April 1.
QantasLink will offer special fares of $129 one-way between Bendigo and Sydney, for travel from March 31 to October 26, 2019. The sale ends December 17, 2018.
Flights take from an hour and 50 minutes to two hours.
City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said council was delighted to partner with Qantas and the state government to deliver the new service.
She said the QantasLink announcement realised a long-held goal for an airline to operate out of the city.
“This is a major milestone for our city and airport, and will deliver an incredible boost to our local economy,” she said.
“Eighteen months on from unveiling our new 1600m runway, we have achieved what we set out to do.
“This is fantastic news and makes Greater Bendigo and the wider region more accessible than ever before.
“To have infrastructure of this scale in a regional area is an incredible asset and today we have capitalised on it.”
Cr O’Rourke said the regular flights would help grow tourism and connect businesses with domestic and international clients.
”We cannot wait to see the flying kangaroo come into land from March next year,” she said.
“We are thrilled to partner with Qantas and have the presence of yet another highly regarded international brand in our city.”
QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said the new Bendigo flights reinforced the national carrier’s commitment to regional Victoria.
“As Australia’s largest regional airline, we know we have an important role to play in connecting communities and making air travel more accessible,” he said.
“No airline has ever offered regular passenger flights between Bendigo and Sydney – so these flights are a win for both travellers and tourism.
“We’re responding to demand from local businesses and industry leaders by adding Bendigo to our network.
“Direct flights will offer a more convenient way to do business in Sydney, saving travellers around four hours driving time on a round trip instead of flying via Melbourne.”
Mr Gissing said support from the state government, Visit Victoria and the City of Greater Bendigo Council had helped make the new service possible.
“We look forward to working together to promote destination Bendigo to travellers from across Australia and around the world, driving the tourism and economic growth which is so vital to the region,” he said.
PEOPLE will be able to fly between Bendigo Airport and Sydney from March next year after the state government announced a new Qantas service.
Treasurer Tim Pallas, Transport Infrastructure Minister and Bendigo East Member Jacinta Allan and Bendigo West Member Maree Edwards were at Bendigo Airport for the announcement on Monday.
The QantasLink return service will operate six days a week and attract up to 14,560 visitors to Bendigo.
It will create 25 new jobs in the region and could inject an additional $2.8 million into the regional economy in its first year of operation.
Mr Pallas said the deal would create opportunities for Bendigo businesses.
“The new service will attract nearly 15,000 visitors to Bendigo each year – that’s great news for local cafes, motels, restaurants and the Bendigo economy,” he said.
Ms Edwards said it was an historic day for the city.
“It’s a big vote of confidence in everything Bendigo has to offer and proof there’s no place in regional Victoria quite like it,” she said.
The state government also announced an increase in passenger facilities.
It will also support a marketing campaign to promote the new service and the Greater Bendigo region.
The announcement comes after a $5 million upgrade of Bendigo Airport. The redevelopment included an extended and widened runway.
Ms Allan said the upgrade helped to secure the Qantas service.
“It’s a win for tourism, a win for jobs and a win for the local economy,” she said.
Earlier this year, the City of Greater Bendigo failed in its bid for $4.4 million in federal funding through the Building Better Regions fund to upgrade the Bendigo Airport terminal.
The lack of funding left the next stage of the airport project, which council believed would help the city to secure a commercial carrier, in doubt.
The project included new passenger terminal facilities with an arrivals hall, baggage pick up, check-in counters, departure lounge and retail opportunities.
The total project cost was $9.98 million, with the council also seeking $4.5 million from the state government. The council planned to chip in the remaining $1 million.
More to come
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