8th December 2015
Exciting news out of the Whitsunday Regional Council this week as councillors unanimously voted in favour of beginning international charter flights to and from the Whitsundays in 2016. Pitched by specialist air charter firm AVMIN, the proposal has been broken down into three stages. Stage one and two focuses on bringing the current Whitsundays Airport on Hamilton Island up to a standard of compliance with regulations surrounding international air travel and establishing suitable carriers to service the region.
Looking ahead, upgrades to the airport will commence in order for the facility to be operational for international services and from there getting charter flights in to the airport will be fairly straightforward. It's been confirmed that the first international destination that will connect the Whitsundays to the rest of the world will be New Zealand. Asia was also acknowledged as a growing market that will be targeted shortly after.
Councillors acknowledged that the Whitsundays hold something very special for international visitors. The tropical islands and famous Great Barrier Reef are very exciting to overseas travellers, a point that was highlighted recently with Grammy Award-winning artist Taylor Swift choosing to holiday on Hamilton Island recently. While Ms Swift's digs were the ultimate in luxury, plenty of her fans joined her on the island for a money-can't-buy intimate gig and were put up at the Reef View Hotel, just minutes from the airport.
Although no potential carriers have yet been announced for the airport upgrades, it has been hinted that Cathay Pacific will be in the mix. With New Zealand set to be the first international destination offering services, it's not a stretch to expect that Air New Zealand will also be on the bill, however sources were fairly 'tight lipped' about any other potential carriers. The current plan aims to introduce services to and from New Zealand by mid-2016, with Asian services to follow shortly after.
Stages one and two are 'full steam ahead' with a 12-week schedule outlined and negotiations planned in Canberra this week. Federal MPs have already expressed their intent to lobby the government, requesting essential immigration and customs services to be provided at no charge initially in order to get the international services off the ground. Noting that the Liberal National Government has already been providing immigration and customs services at no charge to the Townsville airport since it introduced international flights to Bali earlier in the year, MPs revealed that talks had already begun with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to request a similar arrangement for international operations at the Whitsunday airport.