Lord Howe Island Airport, located about 425nm east of Sydney in the Pacific Ocean, has a single runway in an east-west orientation that is 866m in length, which limits the types of aircraft that can operate there.
Currently, QantasLink schedules up to 19 flights a week to Lord Howe Island from Sydney, as well as some seasonal services from Port Macquarie, with 36-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q200 turboprops, the smallest aircraft type in the Qantas fleet.
The contract extension means QantasLink will continue to serve Lord Howe Island after the current contract expires in March.
“Securing ongoing service to this important island community is a great result. The community’s vibrant tourism industry along with its health and education needs rely on regular flights between Sydney and the island,” Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said in a statement.
“While the Q200s continue to provide a wonderful service, the NSW Government is also committing $450,000 to investigate a runway extension on the Island.”
Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said the Lord Howe Island Board was “conscious of the sensitive and pristine biodiversity” of the island, given it boasts the southern most coral reef in the world.
“Lord Howe Island has a number of unique features that make providing air services challenging,” Williams said.
“The Lord Howe Island Board will be making recommendations to improve the airstrip and a possible extension, for other aircraft to access the Island.”
QantasLink chief executive john Gissing noted Qantas had served Lord Howe Island for 70 years.
“We’re committed to continuing to grow business and tourism opportunities for this unique destination on our network,” he said.
QantasLink operates three Q200s – VH-TQG, TGS and TQX – which were built in the mid-1990s. As well as serving Lord Howe Island they operate across the QantasLink NSW network, including from Sydney to Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Moree and Tamworth.
This Youtube clip provides a good perspective on the geographical challenges of operating from Lord Howe Island, plus the Dash 8 Q200’s excellent field performance!