As the 10th anniversary of jet flights from Sydney to Hervey Bay approaches, Mayor Gerard O'Connell says the opening of the extended runway was momentous for the region.
As the 10th anniversary of jet flights from Sydney to Hervey Bay approaches, Mayor Gerard O'Connell says the opening of the extended runway was momentous for the region. Brendan Bufi

Staff planning to mark 10-year anniversary of Sydney flights

JULY 29 this year marks the 10th anniversary of jet flights from Sydney to Hervey Bay.

The opening of the extended runway capable of taking jet aircraft and direct flights to Sydney was momentous for the region, Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell said.

"The arrival of jet aircraft and direct daily Sydney flights on top of daily flights to Brisbane has had a huge impact on the region," he said.

"The flights, and influx of visitors, were credited as the catalyst for tremendous growth.

"Several major developers were attracted here by the jet services.

"Residents have benefited with easy access to capital cities, for visits by friends and family; the tourism industry has access to a wider market which has had a flow-on effect in the building industry with resort development.

"It is a tribute to the forward thinking of the council of the day which backed the multi-million dollar plan to extend the runway and build a modern airport terminal."

The airport opened with both Virgin and Jetstar airlines operating.

"There were 11 jet services a week which far exceeded the originally hopes for three services a week," Cr O'Connell said.

"In the past 10 years, about 1.8 million passengers have passed through the terminal.

"The number of passengers jumped from under 40,000 a year to almost 150,000 in the first a year.

"The withdrawal of Jetstar services in 2009 saw numbers decrease, however the introduction of weekend Qantaslink flights to Sydney in 2014 has airport businesses optimistic.

"Since July last year, 108,000 passengers have passed through the airport, so we're on target to service 160,000 passengers by the 10th birthday."

For Allan Atkinson of Hervey Bay Limousines the changes at the airport in the 21 years he has been operating have been extraordinary.

"The terminal was a demountable 21 years ago when we started," he said.

And the clientele have changed.

"Our passengers are still mainly locals, but we get the occasional celebrity," he said.

The airport has made a big change to Rod Braddock of Bay2dore Shuttle Service which ferries people from across the Wide Bay to and from the airport

"It's been great," he said.

"After 17 years of owning and operating Dial-A-Driver and driving mostly at night, driving during the day has been a great change.

"I've met some wonderful people taking them to the airport - especially the musicians.

"I'm a bit of a muso so it's great to talk with bands from out of the region which have come up to do gigs.

"You also get a lot of travel tips from people about places to go and things to do around the world.

"I haven't used any yet, but there's still time."

Taking over the cafe at the airport seven years ago was a lifestyle change for Len and Barb Norton.

"I was an international salesman for a leather goods company spending nine months a year overseas," he said.

"I've gone from a staff of 25 to three and can spend an hour a day walking on the beach and sailing on the weekend.

"It has been good.

"It's interesting to talk to the people as they come through the cafe, to find out where they've been and where they are going."

Cr O'Connell said the opening of the extended airport increased demand for services, especially on days when there were two jets landing.

"The schedules have changed so we can handle the demand and now have a dozen vehicles serving the region," he said.

"The council is in regular contact with major airlines in the hope of attracting more services and we are also working with industry partners to expand charters for the resource sector.

"We're working towards developing a hub for fly-in, fly-out workers and expanding the number of aviation businesses at Hervey Bay and Maryborough.

"I think that aviation will play a big role in our future."

Airport management staff are working on a celebration to mark the 10-year milestone.

"I'm not sure what we will do just yet, but we are certainly planning to mark the occasion," Cr O'Connell said.



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