Alliance Airlines says it will add three more aircraft to its Darwin base and recruit additional staff in response to growing demand from the tourism and mining sector.
The regional, charter and fly-in/fly-out (FIFO) operator said the three additional aircraft, which comprised two Fokker 70s and one Fokker 100, would gradually join an existing Fokker 100 from July to December.
Alliance Airlines managing director Scott McMillan said there has been increased demand for contact flying in the Northern Territory since the carrier established a base in Darwin in February 2018 with a Fokker 100.
“The requests for additional contractual business has grown to the point where we are confident that the Darwin operation can be significantly and viably expanded,” McMillan said in a statement on Friday.
Beyond Darwin, Alliance Airlines has been flying visitors to Uluru from Australia’s east coast for tour companies JTB and Tauck. Flights from Perth to the Red Centre, again for tour companies, were due to commence later in June.
It also operates regular public transport (RPT) flights between Brisbane and Alice Springs, one of several scheduled services on behalf of Virgin Australia, in addition to charter flights on the route.
Buoyed by the amount of mining and tourism flying into the Northern Territory, Alliance Airlines was looking at expanding its RPT operations in the Northern Territory by commencing flights out of Darwin.
“There are a few routes that are of interest to Alliance, which will both tie up our national network and provide greater access to air services for the people in Northern Australia,” McMillan said.
McMillan said Alliance Airlines was the largest contract aviation operator in Australia.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner welcomed the Alliance Airlines announcement.
“More flight options mean greater choice for Territorians and greater competition,” Gunner said in the Alliance Airlines statement.
“We look forward to continuing to engage with Alliance about their plans to further expand their operations in the Territory.”
The announcement of plans to expand its Darwin base comes a month after Alliance Airlines said it would establish a “significant operational base” at Rockhampton in Queensland.
In February, Alliance reported net profit of $9.85 million for the 2018/19 first half, up 40 per cent from $7.1 million in the prior corresponding period.
Total flying hours rose 21 per cent to a record 19,670 hours in the first half of 2018/19, compared with 16,207 hours in the prior corresponding period, Alliance said in its financial results. The bulk of the increase was in wet lease flying.
On February 1, Qantas announced it had bought a 19.9 per cent stake Alliance Airlines and signalled its intention to seek Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) approval to increase that shareholding over time to eventually become the majority owner.
The ACCC was reviewing the deal.
Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce recently reiterated the company’s intention to increase its stake, subject to regulator approval.
“We see the resources sector booming, we see Alliance highly exposed to that,” Joyce told reporters on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Seoul on June 3.
“Once this review is finished our medium- to long-term objective is to try to do a full takeover of Alliance. We think there is a lot of synergies with a business we have called Network Aviation, which flies the same F100 aircraft.
“We think it adds scale benefits that will be passed on to the customers, the big mining resources. So it is up to us to make the case out to the ACCC that a full takeover could occur.”
Alliance to celebrate 1919 Great Air Race winners with special livery on Fokker 70
Meanwhile, Alliance Airlines said it would paint a Fokker 70 due to be delivered to Australia in December with a special livery that features the winners of the 1919 Great Air Race.
The aircraft, VH-NUY, will honour pilots Ross and Keith Smith, along with mechanics Sergeants Walter Shiers and James Bennett, who won the competition in their Vickers Vimy G-EAOU.
The aircraft took off from Hounslow aerodrome in West London on November 12 1919 and landed a Fannie Bay in the Northern Territory 29 days later. Countries they flew through before reaching Australia included France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Singapore and Indonesia before reaching Australia.
Alliance Airlines said VH-NUY would recreate the route from London to Darwin, aiming to touch down exactly 100 years to the minute at 1540hrs on 10th December 2019.
The livery was designed by Netherlands-based Lila Design.