Virgin Australia resumed services between Sydney and Ballina Byron on Tuesday following similar moves by rivals Jetstar, Qantas and FlyPelican.
The extra service (VA1141) means that the airport is now welcoming almost as many flights as before the pandemic began, due to its location in the open state of NSW but in the warmer north.
The Boeing B738, VH-YWE, left Sydney Airport at 1:15pm on Tuesday, and arrived at Ballina Byron Airport at 2:21pm.
The operating aircraft was greeted with a traditional water canon salute, pictured above, while the crew were handed the region’s famous Ballina Burgers.
Virgin Australia will now operate three weekly direct services between Sydney and Byron Bay on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The move follows other airlines returning to Byron – something made possible by the relaxing of coronavirus movement restrictions.
Last week, Australian Aviation reported how the first direct flight between Canberra and Ballina left on Friday, with return flights between the ACT and Byron now departing three times per week.
Meanwhile, Qantas has also announced it will service daily return flights between Sydney and Ballina with its Q400 aircraft.
Qantas stated that the new route was launched in an attempt to “reboot the local tourism industry’s post-COVID recovery”.
Ballina Byron Airport general manager Julie Stewart, speaking before Melbourne’s lockdown was announced, said, “Prior to COVID, we had four airlines operating out of the airport to three destinations, and now we have five airlines going to four destinations, including Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle and Melbourne.”
Meanwhile, Ballina Shire mayor David Wright was similarly enthusiastic about the competition for flights into Byron.
“There’s a lot of people coming to be honest, and why wouldn’t they? We live in paradise,” he said.
“The land and house sales haven’t stopped … and prices are up. A vacant lot sold for $2.3 million the other day. The buyer was told the price and said ‘I’ll take it’; didn’t hesitate.”