FEDERAL Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce said the announcement today by Virgin to introduce a six-day a week flight service to Tamworth from the end of May was a tremendous boost not only for lower airfares but increasing numbers of tourists visiting the city and region.
Mr Joyce said the announcement by Virgin’s Chief Executive Officer John Borghetti of introductory fares of $85 a seat would be warmly welcomed by Tamworth and New England Electorate residents who, on some occasions, paid up to $1000 for flights to Sydney and back.
Virgin’s Sydney to Tamworth route would be served by a 68-seat ART72-600 plane, one of the most widely used turbo-prop planes in the world.
Mr Borghetti said the announcement by Virgin of the new air-service was one of investment and recognition in Tamworth.
He said Tamworth was, “a very important, strategic hub with a mixture of corporate and tourism passengers”.
“Domestic tourism is the lifeblood of regional Australia,” Mr Borghetti said.
“That’s why we’re introducing $85 fees; hopefully it will be economical enough to attract customers.”
Mr Borghetti said it was now 14 years since the demise of former domestic carrier, Ansett.
He said the Virgin service to Tamworth was about introducing competition back into the leg and he was confident that in the not-too-distant future, Virgin’s flights into the Country Music Capital would increase markedly.
Mr Borghetti said the lower Australian dollar would also generate increased numbers of international tourists, as well increased numbers of domestic tourism and family connection flights to Tamworth.
He also said Tamworth would benefit from a freight strategy, expected to be announced later in the year by Virgin.
Mr Joyce also welcomed the beginning on Monday of a jet service between Tamworth to Brisbane by the Brisbane-based JetGo.
He said he had received reports the Brisbane-Tamworth service’s expectations had been surpassed to such a degree in its first week that forecasts for week five of the new service were already being met.