Additional plane seats to far North Queensland outnumber the population of Cairns, says national tourism and transport leader

New flights planned by Tigerair Australia and Jetstar Airways from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Far North Queensland will deliver more than 168,000 additional plane seats per year, more than the population of Cairns and just under the population of Townsville, according to the Tourism & Transport Forum, Australia’s peak tourism advocacy group.

The two airlines have announced that a total of 18 new flights per week will be launched between now and late June, with Tigerair Australia, owned by Virgin Australia, activating two new routes and additional flights on two existing routes, and the Qantas Group’s Jetstar launching one new route and expanding services on another.

“Tourism has never been more important to Far North Queensland, which has been hit hard by the slowing of the resources industry,” said Margy Osmond, Chief Executive Officer of TTF. “These new services will not only increase access to some of Australia’s most popular destinations, but also offer much-needed impetus to the visitor economy.”

The new services will begin later this month when Tigerair Australia introduces four flights per week between Brisbane and Whitsunday Airport in Proserpine, and expands two existing operations, adding four more Brisbane-Cairns flights per week and two additional Sydney-Proserpine services.

Then from 22 June, Tigerair Australia will commence nonstop services between Melbourne and Townsville, operating four times per week. These flights will be supported by the Queensland Government’s Attracting Aviation Investment Fund, through Tourism and Events Queensland partnering with Townsville City Council and Queensland Airports Limited, which owns Townsville Airport.

Also this month, Jetstar will introduce a fourth flight per week between Melbourne and Proserpine. Then next month the airline will introduce three flights per week between Sydney and Proserpine.

Ms Osmond said that the total of 18 additional flights, all to be operated with 180-seat Airbus A320 aircraft, would deliver 3,240 extra seats per week to the Whitsundays, Townsville and Cairns.

“In a full year, that’s 168,480 seats, which is more than the population of Greater Cairns and just under the population of Townsville,” Ms Osmond said. “Not only does that reflect commitment by the airlines to Far North Queensland. It also demonstrates their continued confidence in the region.”

In addition to the new Tigerair Australia and Jetstar flights, Cairns Airport has started 2017 strongly, with 31,500 more passengers – or an average daily increase of 1,000 passengers – passing through its terminals in January compared to the same period last year.

The airport’s international passenger numbers rose by 8,870, or 16.4 per cent, while domestic passenger traffic was up by 22,450 or 6.4 per cent.

Major contributing factors included the start of Chinese New Year, which boosted both international and domestic flights, and seasonal flights from Seoul, Korea, by Jin Air, which the airport hopes will be reinstated later this year.

Ms Osmond said the growth of international flights into Brisbane, or the upgrade of existing flights to larger aircraft types, offered even more opportunities for leisure and business travellers to visit regional Queensland, with passengers able to connect to frequent flights across a large intra-state air network from the capital.

She said this potential would grow even more from 2020 when Brisbane Airport opens a second parallel runway, doubling its capacity to handle aircraft movements.