International flights are returning to Hobart.
However, before people start heading to the nearest travel agent to book tickets, it is cargo rather than passenger demand that has led to a proposed once weekly service out of Tasmania.
Qantas plans to operate a Boeing 767-300 freighter from Hobart to Ningbo, China to transport some 50,000 litres of fresh milk a week, with flights due to commence some time in the first half of calendar 2017.
The milk, from the VAN Dairy milk company, will be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores in Ningbo and Beijing, Qantas said on Friday.
Sean Shwe, managing director of VAN Dairy parent company Moon Lake Investments, said there was huge demand for fresh milk in China.
Further, the start of the Qantas freighter service would allow other Tasmanian producers to also export their goods such as fresh meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables directly to China.
“The key to satisfying that demand is having a reliable freight partner with an established freighter network, infrastructure and support in China and expertise in handling fresh produce – Qantas provides that,” Shwe said in a statement.
“It will be a game changer for Tasmania, and we are proud to be leading the charge.”
Qantas said the 767-300 freighter would be the largest commercial aircraft to regularly operate into and out of Hobart. Frequencies could be increased from the proposed once a week service to meet demand.
Hobart last had regular international passenger flights in the late 1990s, when Air New Zealand had some trans-Tasman services.
Qantas Freight and Qantas Catering group executive manager Alison Webster noted the proposed 767-300 freighter flight out of Hobart added to the airline’s five existing dedicated freighter flights a week between Australia to China.
“Over the past three years Qantas Freight has developed particularly strong capabilities in dairy export which, with its short-life, requires close collaboration to ensure on time delivery and quality control throughout the supply chain,” Webster said.
“We’re really pleased to partner with VAN Dairy to help meet the booming demand for fresh Tasmanian milk in China – it’s the ultimate milk run.”
Currently, Qantas has daily passenger flights from Sydney to Shanghai and will return to the Sydney-Beijing route in January 2017. It also serves Hong Kong from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.