Plans for direct flights between Rockhampton and outback western Queensland have cleared a major hurdle with a new study saying the idea stacks up financially.
Rockhampton Regional Council commissioned an independent business case to assess the viability of running flights to Rockhampton from towns such as Longreach, Blackall and Barcaldine.
Councillor Neil Fisher, the chair of the council’s Airport, Water and Waste Committee, has long been supportive of a service to connect Rockhampton with the bush.
“The business case proves what we are saying is not only true, but the business case actually stacks up better than we thought,” he said.
The crucial number in looking at the flights was the “load factor”, Mr Fisher said, which measures whether a flight can fill enough seats to make money.
“Aviation always talks about the load factor, anything above 50 per cent is good,” he said.
“On a six day a week service flying two ways between Rockhampton and Longreach – with stops in Barcaldine or Blackall – we would get a 73 per cent potential load factor.
“That’s basing it on a 33 or 38-seater plane.”
A larger 76-seat plane flying three days a week would have a potential load factor of 75 per cent, Mr Fisher said.
“These are very strong numbers.”
Patients who needed to travel to Rockhampton for medical treatment were just one group who would benefit from the service, Mr Fisher said.
“In the central west health data, there are 39 people every week who have to travel to Rockhampton for health related treatment. Not to Townsville, not to Brisbane, but to Rockhampton.
“At the moment they can take a train, a bus two days a week, or a connecting flight via Brisbane.
“Imagine how much better the recovery period would be if they could get on a flight and travel to Rockhampton directly.”
The next step would be to approach both state and federal governments to get their support for the flight service, Mr Fisher said.
He said a “use it or lose it” trial would be a good way to demonstrate the viability of the flights.
“We need federal and state government support and we need to have the ability to have a ‘use it or lose it’ trial.”
Mr Fisher would soon meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack as well as Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to canvass their support for the trials.
“Every time I come out to the central west, I see all this opportunity for tourism,” he said.
“You just think, if only we could package these ideas and get more people out here.
“Just think if you can get more people into the cattle sales.
“From every industry point of view it has benefits.”