Brisbane West Wellcamp will have a regular cargo link with Asia from November when Cathay Pacific adds the Southern Queensland airport to its Australian freighter network.
The start of the once weekly service comes a year after Cathay operated a one-off freighter flight to Wellcamp on November 23 2015 and is yet another step forward in airport owners Wagners’ ambition to establish the facility as an international passenger and freight hub for the region.
Wellcamp said in a statement on Tuesday Cathay will operate the flight on a Sydney-Melbourne-Wellcamp-Hong Kong routing with a Boeing 747-8F.
Wagners chairman John Wagner said Cathay’s commitment to a weekly flight was a major coup for the airport and the region’s local producers.
“We are absolutely delighted Cathay Pacific has committed to operating a scheduled weekly Boeing 747-8F service out of the airport,” Wagner said.
“The opportunities this creates for Queensland exporters to benefit from Australia’s free trade agreements and to access the world’s biggest consumer markets are unlimited.”
Wellcamp said Menzies Aviation would manage ground handling and cargo terminal operations in partnership with the airport.
Cathay Pacific’s one-off flight in November 2015 carried about 70 and 75 tonnes of cargo including chilled beef, mangoes, pecan nuts and grains from the surrounding Darling Downs region was loaded before departing to Hong Kong. There was also some heavy machinery being loaded on the flight such as a helicopter.
The airline’s general manager for Southwest Pacific Nelson Chin said there was much potential in Wellcamp.
“We were enormously encouraged by the enthusiasm and support of everyone involved in this venture,” Chin said.
“The combination of primary producers in the Darling Downs area exporting beef, dairy and fresh produce, as well as significant mining and manufacturing businesses in southern Queensland makes it a truly dynamic part of Australia.
“China buys more of Australia’s agricultural products than any other country and we are confident our new service will provide these businesses with a competitive advantage as the benefits of the new China-Australia Free Trade Agreement increase.”
Flight schedules from Cathay showed CX22 departing Sydney at 1220, arriving in Melbourne at 1350. After an hour and 45 minutes on the ground, the 747-8F was then due to take off at 1535 and touch down at Wellcamp at 1645. The final leg is scheduled as a 1815 departure, landing in Hong Kong at 0045 the next day.
Cathay said the flight times would allow for “fresh produce to be delivered to the markets and restaurants in China later that morning as well as onto a vast number of destinations around the world” from the airline’s Hong Kong Cargo Terminal.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the government would work with the airport to provide the necessary border agency resources to support the weekly freight flight.
Further, Chester noted the federal government’s move to categorise Wellcamp as a ”regional airport” for future air services agreements, rather than as a major airport such as Sydney or Melbourne, has generated fresh interest from foreign carriers.
“The regional package provides for no restrictions on capacity entitlements which will help Wellcamp grow in the future,” Chester said in a statement.
“Unlocking additional aviation capacity provides our regional airports, including Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, the opportunity to connect with international airline networks and more effectively serve their local markets.”
Wellcamp has domestic flights from Airnorth, Regional Express and QantasLink.
The airport recently won an Australian Engineering Excellence Award (AEEA) for Queenslandin the project infrastructure category. The award recognises “outstanding achievement in the practice of engineering and service to the profession”.