Business down as flights cut bites
THREE months on and there is still no word on extra flights for Hervey Bay Airport.
The withdrawal of Jetstar services from the airport on July 31 continues to have a detrimental effect on the region.
One airport business owner is counting every penny after losing more than half his customers from the combined impact of Jetstar’s withdrawal, costly Virgin Blue tickets and limited free parking.
But there may be hope as the Fraser Coast Regional Council in discussions with other airlines, according to Cr Barbara Hovard who holds the business development portfolio .
“We are well aware that residents and businesses are not happy about Jetstar’s withdrawal from Hervey Bay, and we as a council worked hard to prevent it happening, but the decision was Jetstar’s,” she said.
“However, you can be assured that we have the welfare of our region and our businesses at heart and are in discussions with other airlines.”
But that might not be enough to comfort Hervey Bay Airport Cafe manager Len Norton.
Mr Norton described Jetstar’s affect on his business as disastrous.
“I thought our turnover would go down about half; it’s gone down more than half,” he said.
Jetstar was not only to blame for Mr Norton’s lack of customers, he said, the lack of competition for Virgin Blue had led to a hike in prices that was forcing his customers to Maroochydore airport. On top of that the change in airport parking had meant people picking up passengers were not going into the airport and having a coffee while they waited; instead they stayed outside so they did not go over the free 30-minute time slot.
“I used to be flat out making coffees for 20 minutes with Jetstar and Virgin; now I’m only flat out for about five minutes. It’s very, very sad.”
Ms Hovard admitted the loss of Jetstar had had a real impact on the airport.
“It means less income from landing fees, fewer people using the car park or transport to and from the airport and fewer people in the terminal supporting the retailers.”
She said it had also had a negative impact on accommodation and other businesses outside the airport.
But the council was looking at how free parking time limits and other factors were affecting retailers in regards to how long visitors were lingering in the terminal.
Virgin Blue is also keeping a close eye on the airport.
Public Affairs officer Leonie Vandeven said route analysts were constantly monitoring the performance of all markets and if they see demand the airline considers increasing its capacity.
The airline would not be specific about its future direction for Hervey Bay but Ms Vandeven did say there had been a spike in customer numbers especially during the whale watching season.
“We have seen significant growth in our passenger numbers.”
In regards to those $105 flight specials Virgin Blue promised, they’re still around, but you have to be quick to spot them.
“As always, the further in advance you book the greater chance you will have to secure one of our cheaper fares especially going into peak season,” said Ms Vandeven.