This week, Hobart Airport saw the return of Cathay Pacific’s regular freight services, directly connecting Tasmania and Hong Kong, after services were halted earlier this year.
On Monday evening, an Airbus A350 took off from Hobart, packed with fresh Tasmanian produce, including seafood and seasonal cherries, with flights to continue on a weekly basis.
The federal and state governments announced in October that Cathay Pacific would return to Hobart to recommence regular direct cargo flights to Hong Kong, after a number of successful similar flights took place last summer.
Previously, Cathay was operating its direct Hobart-Hong Kong cargo flights on its Boeing 777-300 aircraft, however this year has swapped to the slightly smaller Airbus A350-900.
Tasmania Minister for Trade Guy Barnett said over the last 12 months alone, fresh produce exports to Asia have brought in over $24 million into the local economy and dubbed the Cathay Pacific regular air link to Hong Kong a “game changer” for the industry.
The news comes as Tasmania prepares to reopen its state borders to NSW, Victoria and the ACT from 15 December, with Hobart Airport gearing up for a record-breaking influx of passengers over the summer.
It also comes as Hobart Airport lobbies for additional upgrades to its runway facilities, in order to facilitate larger aircraft and additional direct air links with Asia, bolstering the state’s export and tourism industries.
The airport commissioned KPMG to conduct an analysis on the benefit of upgrading Hobart Airport’s capabilities.
“The KPMG report shows that Hobart Airport is the key to building Tasmania’s future and connecting communities,” Hobart Airport CEO Norris Carter said in a statement.
“By investing in the next phase of upgrades, we have the chance to create nearly 1,300 jobs around Tasmania and create an additional $122 million in economic activity each year.”
Some upgraders are already underway on Hobart’s runway, Carter said, however the airport is still only certified to carry wide-body jets up to ‘Code E’ classification. Upgrading to a ‘Code F’ runway would allow Hobart to welcome the world’s largest jets.
“The Hobart Airport runway is probably the most important stretch of road in Tasmania,” Carter said.
“In recent years we’ve lengthened the runway, which has been very successful. We can now accommodate some of the biggest aircraft in Australia, for example the Cathay Pacific freight flight to Hong Kong that started this week.
“We’ve lengthened the runway, now we need to strengthen the runway. That will enable the biggest commercial aircraft in the world to take off at Hobart Airport fully fuelled and fully laden.
“By doing that, we can turn Hobart Airport into an international freight hub for Tasmania’s premium produce, further cement Hobart’s spot as the Antarctic Gateway, provide the capacity to host expanded defence capabilities, in line with the government’s focus on the Southern Ocean and of course, open Hobart up to more passenger flights.
“The strategic investments we make now have the capacity to pay massive dividends by helping build Tasmania’s future and importantly connect communities.”