Qantas boosts business flights to Queensland mining areas

By John Walton, March 11 2011
Qantas boosts business flights to Queensland mining areas

Qantas will ratchet up its capacity into Queensland's major centres and mining business areas in the next four weeks once the airline receives new Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft.

The faster and larger Q400s, which seat 72 passengers, will replace smaller aircraft, but additional flights for Queensland's lucrative mining sector are also in the works.

Resources sector hub Moranbah, for example, will gain nine extra weekly flights, including an early morning flight from Brisbane every weekday except Wednesday. 

The additional flights come in the context of an 86% total capacity growth for Moranbah with the new larger planes -- and with a promise from Qantas of more to come once upgrades to Moranbah airport, currently in progress, are complete.

Regional Queenslanders heading into Brisbane to do business will also see more seats available as a result of the larger Q400 aircraft, with increases for Barcaldine, Blackall, Bundaberg, Emerald, Gladstone, Hervey Bay, Longreach, Mackay, Rockhampton and Roma.

Qantas has received 22 of a total 28 Q400s it ordered from Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier, with the final six due to arrive within the next 18 months.

The aircraft -- together with other Bombardier propeller-driven planes and smaller Boeing jet 717s -- have been a linchpin in Qantas' strategy for its regional QantasLink subsidiary.

QantasLink and rival Virgin Blue have spent a significant amount of time and money chasing the mining and resources market already this year. 

Virgin Blue and Western Australia regional airline Skywest's partnership for WA flights will begin in a few months, while Qantas has based additional aircraft in Perth and will fly more routes from the airport.

Australia's booming fly-in fly-out demand -- where mining company staff fly into remote areas for a shift of a week to ten days and then fly home -- continues to increase, and will be a key money-spinner for airlines.

Perth Airport is getting into the game too, with a new fly-in fly-out terminal designed in consultation with mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton as part of Perth's A$500 million airport overhaul.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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