Mayor: ‘You can’t blame Virgin, they have a business to run’

MACKAY Mayor Greg Williamson said the cancellation of Virgin's direct flights to Sydney were unfortunate, but unsurprising due to the economic downturn in the Mackay region.

"It's very unfortunate that Virgin have had to cease the direct flights but you can't blame Virgin, they have a business to run," he said.

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson.
Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson. Chris Lees

"Whilst it was fantastic to have direct flights to Sydney if there is no demand that makes it a profitable outcome then Virgin had no choice.

"What I would hope they do is maintain a fare base that takes people from Sydney through Brisbane that is still going to attract passengers to Mackay, rather than making it a fare that's much more expensive.

"We've seen this before. We've seen the direct flight to Melbourne go due to lack of demand."

Mr Williamson said the cancellation was further proof Mackay's "halcyon days of the mining industry" and its accompanying demand for direct flights had ended.

"We (Mackay Regional Council) have got to live with that and I thank Virgin for being here as a major supplier to Mackay and look forward to building up our region's economy up again where we can go back to Virgin and say 'hey, why don't you reintroduce it?'," he said.

"But we're not there yet."



Ali Bush says the cancellation of Virgin's Mackay-Sydney flights will make visits much harder for her intellectually disabled sister.
Ali Bush says the cancellation of Virgin's Mackay-Sydney flights will make visits much harder for her intellectually disabled sister. Luke Mortimer

Mackay-Sydney cancellation annoying, expensive

VIRGIN Australia's announcement it will cancel its Mackay-Sydney service from January 1 next year will likely come as an inconvenience to many in the Mackay region.

But for Andergrove's Ali Bush and her intellectually disabled sister, Jennifer Bush, it will prove to be a particularly annoying and expensive development.

"I know I was excited that there was such a flight," Ms Bush said.

"This makes it difficult for me. My intellectually disabled sister is coming up (from Sydney) for Christmas. A direct flight was perfect as (there was) no worry about changing planes.

"I now have to fly to Brisbane with her and put her on the Sydney plane, or the other option was take her to Hamilton Island for a direct flight.

"It makes it expensive.

"It was easy for my sister to visit at Christmas.

"When I left I promised that we would always spend Christmas together but now that may not be the case."

In a statement on Thursday, a Virgin Airlines spokesman said the service have been cancelled due to reduced demand,

"Virgin Australia will cease direct services between Sydney and Mackay from 1 January 2017 due to reduced demand," the spokesman said.

"All affected guests will be provided with an updated itinerary.

"We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause."

Despite the apology, Ms Bush was not satisfied and said the announcement seemingly came out of nowhere, with no mention of the potential cancellation made to her beforehand.

"It's annoying as it would have been so convenient for my sister because she is unable to change planes by herself and too old to get assistance," she said.

"Now I have to fly to Brisbane with her to make sure she is on the flight to Sydney which will cost me nearly $300."

Ms Bush said perhaps Virgin could have trialled reducing Mackay-Sydney flights rather than slashing them completely.

In 2011, Virgin Airlines introduced flights direct to Sydney from Mackay including business class and built a new lounge due to increased demand.

It is currently the only airline that offers a direct route between Mackay and Sydney.


'Tough decisions need to be made'

MACKAY Tourism's general manager Tas Webber said Virgin's move to cancel flights between Mackay and Sydney left room for another airline to fill the gap.

Mackay Tourism general manager Tas Webber,
Mackay Tourism general manager Tas Webber, Luke Mortimer

"We'll work with any airline partner to get them to rebuild route distribution to the Mackay region. "We'll work with Virgin, Qantas - anyone who wants to come to the region."

Mr Webber said Mackay Tourism didn't expect a drastic hit to tourism in the region.

"We understand sometimes tough decisions need to be made," he said.

"To be honest, the visiting friends and relatives market does drive from there but our main demand for the leisure market is the four-hour-drive market, which won't be affected."


'Obviously, it's not an ideal situation'

MACKAY Region Chamber of Commerce president Kylie Porter has described Virgin's termination of direct flights to Sydney as "disappointing".

Mackay Region Chamber of Commerce president Kylie Porter.
Mackay Region Chamber of Commerce president Kylie Porter. Tony Martin

But she is optimistic the cancellation will not have a significant impact on the Mackay business community.

"Obviously, it's not an ideal situation but the reality is the vast majority of business travellers from here are probably heading to Brisbane to conduct business," she said.

"We've been on a reduced number of services between Mackay and Sydney by Virgin for a few months now, so I don't think the decision is surprising."

Ms Porter said she believed the service was "not particularly convenient for business travellers anyway".

Topics:  mackay mackay airport sydney virgin

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