Qantas returns to Ballina after 15-year hiatus
THE flying kangaroo will return over Ballina's skies from the end of March, with Qantas announcing daily return flights to Ballina from Sydney.
Ballina Shire Council's airport manager, Paul Tsikleas, welcomed the announcement.
He said the new flights, starting March 29, would particularly suit businesspeople, with a morning departure from Ballina and an evening return from Sydney.
"That makes it possible to travel to Sydney for business and return on the same day," he said.
He also said the Qantas flights, under the QantasLink brand, would link passengers from the region to the extensive domestic and international network of the national carrier.
"That will be important for things like baggage," he said.
It's been 15 years since Qantas flew into Ballina airport.
The airline joins Jetstar, Virgin, FlyPelican and Rex on the Ballina tarmac, with the carriers providing links to Sydney, Melbourne and Newcatle.
The Qantas flights will add more than 36,000 seats into Ballina each year.
Mr Tsikleas said if the flights attract the 85 per cent load which is average for the other airlines, that will bring annual passenger numbers for the airport to about 560,000.
He said the new flights cement Ballina's position as the busiest regional airport in NSW outside Newcastle.
The announcement comes after the opening last year of the $6.7m airport terminal upgrade, an investment Mr Tsikleas said was paying off.
Qantas Domestic chief executive, Andrew David, said demand for premium travel to the region was increasing.
"Byron Bay continues to be an incredibly popular destination for holiday-makers of all types," he said.
"We've seen more and more luxury hotels established in recent years and we think it's the right time for Qantas to again fly directly to Ballina.
"Our frequent flyers have been asking for this for some time and we think they'll enjoy the option of flying on Qantas and the benefits our premium service offers including lounge access before they fly out of Sydney."
The flights will be operated by a 50-seat propeller-driven Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 aircraft.
To mark the return of Qantas to Ballina, the carrier is offering special fares of $115 one-way between Ballina and Sydney for travel from March 29 to October 25 this year.