Travellers in Orange are set to get access to over 45,000 additional seats each year, thanks to a new airlink announced by Australia’s largest airline.
Qantas’ regional arm – QantasLink – intends to commence flights between Sydney and Orange from 1 May. The airline’s 11 weekly flights will be handled by its Bombardier Dash 8 Q300 and Q200 aircraft.
With airlinks currently solely provided by Regional Express (REX), prices on the route often fetch over $400 per person round trip*. Qantas say its presence on the route will bring “much-needed competition to the skies of Central West NSW.”
Orange City Council celebrated the move, with Mayor Reg Kidd saying the new Qantas flights will add a welcome boost to the $500 million dollars visitors already spend annually in the region.
“Orange’s passenger numbers have been growing steadily in recent years as the regional economy has expanded, using the airport as a key connection. It’s fantastic that Qantas see themselves as part of this growing region,” Cr. Kidd said.
Passengers on the new flights will benefit from a series of upgrades undertaken at Orange Regional Airport in recent years – with runway works, road access improvements and a significant terminal upgrade all having been completed.
The airport is currently focusing on updating parking facilities, with the aim of integrating green technology into the facility.
“We started work last week on the first stage of a car park expansion, that will eventually lead to covered, secure parking on-site. The roof of the carpark will be a huge solar panel array,” Orange City Council’s Deputy Mayor and Airport Advisory Committee Chair Cr. Sam Romano said in a prepared statement.
Additional upgrades will see improvements made to the terminal’s WiFi service, with the aim of bolstering the business facilities at the airport, as well as enabling leisure travellers to stay connected during their time at the terminal.
Romano continues: “As well as being a hub of local employment for flight schools and aircraft maintenance, the Orange Regional Airport is a key gateway for industry, education, mining and tourism…”
“The airport has been built with space for expansion. There’s space for extra check-in desks for the new airline and the luggage carousel can handle the extra volume.”
QantasLink says the airline’s arrival is in response to “years of locals calling for the flying Kangaroo”, with QantasLink CEO John Gissing adding: “Orange is a thriving place with an increasingly diverse economy. There’s growing demand for a premium airline to connect business and leisure travellers.”
“These additional flights will make it easier for Sydney residents and domestic and international tourists to discover one of NSW’s most beautiful regions, with its world-class restaurants and wineries. As part of our commitment to the route we will also promote Orange on a global stage, across Qantas’ domestic and international markets and to the airline’s 13 million frequent flyers.”
However, not everyone is celebrating the flying kangaroo’s arrival.
Incumbent operator Regional Express – which currently offers the only regular passenger air service to Orange – expressed concerned that the new Qantas service will ultimately have a negative impact on the Orange community.
Such a response comes off the back of Qantas’ recent move to establish its own flights from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, and Sydney to Ballina – routes that were serviced by Rex.
Rex recently raised its concerns with the ACCC, accusing Qantas of: “dumping excessive capacity on routes that are already extremely marginal,” which ultimately contributed to its planned withdrawal from of those routes on 30 June and March 29 respectively.
Of QantasLink’s new Orange flights, a Rex spokesperson said: “Rex will be presenting further evidence to the ACCC on the abuse of market power of Qantas. We believe that Qantas’ recent actions do not reflect competition on merits which the law requires, but rather an attempt to abuse their dominant market power and financial strength.
“It will be catastrophic for the community of Orange if Rex pulls out all its weekly slots to Sydney Airport. Qantas has no slots during the peak business demand periods and are only offering unwanted fringe slots to another community and the Orange business community will suffer enormously. Rex will be loathed to do that, but will have to do so if the Orange business community is not supportive of Rex.”
*Based on Google Flight Search conducted on 13 February 1:30PM AEST looking at Orange-Sydney 1 March return, 15 March return, 1 April return and 15 April return.