THE future of Hervey Bay's Airport Cafe is uncertain, with owner Len Norton blaming newly introduced parking fees for a major drop in business.
From the loss of the Jetstar service, which took away two thirds of the cafe's revenue, to the reduced number of Virgin flights and the introduction of security screening, which kept potential customers in long queues, Mr Norton and his wife were already suffering - and they say and no free parking is "just one more thing that hurts".
Since free parking for the first hour was abolished - customers now pay flat rate of $2 for two hours - Mr Norton said he had noticed a significant change in the number of people willing to stop.
"I know $2 doesn't seem like much but when they first introduced paid parking for more than one hour we already saw situations where the husband would be flying out and the wife, who would usually stay and have a cup of coffee, would think 'I'm not going to make it back out in time," Mr Norton said
"Now, with no free parking, people just drop and run.
"Every time something like this changes, we lose out."
In the past days, Mr Norton has noticed a slight rise in customers and hopes that as people become resigned to the fact that they have to pay either way, the might keep coming back.
In the meantime, he is trying to stay positive that dismal passenger numbers on the recently introduced Qantas direct flights to Sydney will increase and maintains hope for future direct flights to Melbourne.
What puzzles Mr Norton most is that parking isn't exactly at a premium and he can't understand why the fees were necessary in the first place.
"This is not Sydney - people are not driving around in circles for 10 minutes looking for a park," he said
"Everyone wants better roads, lawns etc … I just don't want us to always be the ones paying for it."
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