Qantas on Monday operated the first of four weekly direct flights between Mildura and Sydney, to coincide with the opening of the NSW–Victoria border.
The De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300, VH-SBB msn 539, departed Mildura at 2:43pm as QLK402 and landed in Sydney at 4:31pm.
The new service will come as a welcome boost to Mildura, which was one of the most high-profile airports to be denied access to JobKeeper because it was deemed to be council-owned.
The new flights are the only direct link to Sydney, saving travellers around two hours by not having to switch.
Qantas executive manager of sales and distribution Igor Kwiatkowski said the airline was responding to demand from local industry leaders to provide the service.
“Mildura has a rich history and is home to some of Australia’s finest produce and wineries and we know it will be a popular destination for holidaymakers as well,” said Kwiatkowski.
“Together with the Mildura Rural City Council we’ll be promoting greater Mildura to travellers across Australia as a great destination to visit.”
Earlier this year, the chairman of Mildura Airport became Australia’s first airport boss to call for the JobKeeper scheme to be extended after it emerged the initiative was $60 billion under budget.
Peter O’Donnell told Australian Aviation, “We’ll get through this, but my concern is that the regional networks will be decimated because airports will be fundamentally without funds or bankrupted.”
He added that while, initially, his focus was on returning his terminal to the same standards when restrictions ease, now the objective is purely survival, having stood down more than half his staff after losing around 97 per cent of revenue.
“We’re as operational as we can be but there are only five flights a week,” said O’Donnell. “Security staff are stood down and it’s hard to get good café people. When we do restart, we have to re-engage these people and hope they’re still around and available.”
The JobKeeper package was introduced to provide coronavirus-affected business with $1,500 per employee, per fortnight.
The companies are then legally obliged to pass that payment onto workers in a bid to keep the economy active during the pandemic.
However, many airport workers are locked out of the financial package because their firms are council-owned; while staff at dnata were similarly told they were no longer eligible because their company is owned by a foreign government.
Meanwhile, Qantas also launched a direct link between Canberra and Cairns at the weekend.
The 717-2K9, VH-YQX msn 55053, departed Canberra at 10:36am on Saturday, 21 November as flight QF1770 and landed in Cairns at 12:24pm.