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Cairns-Brisbane now Australia’s busiest route

written by Adam Thorn | August 20, 2020
A file image of a QantasLink and Alliance Aviation aircraft at Cairns Airport. (Seth Jaworski)
A QantasLink and Alliance Aviation aircraft at Cairns Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Cairns is taking advantage of the shift to intrastate travel with its return route to Brisbane now estimated to be Australia’s busiest.

The business’ head of aviation, Garry Porter, said the route is now enjoying up to 90 flights a week, with more set to be added early next month.

“It’s exciting that we’re making the most of a terrible situation,” said Porter. “We normally sit in the top 10 to 15, so this is great, especially for the economy.”


However, while Cairns is performing relatively well given the scale of the coronavirus crisis, the 100,000 people arriving each month is still far down from pre-pandemic numbers of 450,000.

From 1 September, Jetstar will also resume 11 Gold Coast flights and two flights weekly to Darwin, alongside the Adelaide route becoming daily. Airnorth is operating five weekly flights from Cairns to Darwin, too.

Separately, Tourism Tropical North Queensland CEO Mark Olsen revealed Cairns had become the most searched travel region in Australia on Google.

“Bookings have picked up for some properties, with Fitzroy Island Resort reporting strong forward bookings after losing a lot of business when the New South Wales border closed,” Olsen said.


“Hotels are experiencing better midweek vacancies. They’re reporting a younger demographic is enjoying getaways and mini-breaks.

“In terms of seat sales, travel from Brisbane to Cairns is the most popular flight in Australia in the moment. That gives even more incentive for Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin to increase their seat capacity because the attraction is there.”

Previously, Australian Aviation reported that Byron Bay in NSW has similarly benefited from the shift in demand to intrastate holidays, with FlyPelican in particular extending its return flights from Canberra Airport.

In July, before restrictions were reinstated, Byron was now welcoming almost as many flights as before the pandemic began, with regular services also operated by Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar.

Then, Ballina Shire mayor David Wright was 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.”

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  • Linda Weaving


    When politicians actually do the right thing for their citizens its people like Joyce who call it ‘playing politics’. Joyce, your comments come from pure self interest. Despite what you seem to think, you don’t run the state or the country. There are millions much worse off than you, including businesses. So stop whinging & go jump in the lake!

  • Linda Weaving


    When Brisbane-Cairns becomes the busiest route you know that aviation is in the toilet!
    I doubt that the Sydney-Melbourne route will ever return to being the cash cow it was. All those business travelers have realised they can effectively use Zoom & save a bunch of money.
    It was always going to happen. Infinite growth is a physical impossibility. Maybe business managers like Joyce should start being thankful for what they have instead of constantly yearning for more.
    Could be a case of Karma, too. Joyce did get sucked in by the government’s offer to help design the western Sydney airport, thus creating the impression that Qantas will use it, even though he knows full well they won’t, because it’s uneconomic & in a very inconvenient location with no useful infrastructure. Not very fair for locals.

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