Virgin to touch down in Emerald?

TAKING OFF: Virgin Blue could be Emerald bound.
TAKING OFF: Virgin Blue could be Emerald bound. cont

QANTASLINK’S Central Highlands’ air service monopoly could be broken, with Virgin Blue confirming it is assessing Emerald as a possible regional route destination.

Central Highlands Regional Council Commercial Services general manager Col Dziewicki said it made sound business sense for a rival carrier to consider Emerald Airport, which is currently undergoing a $7 million terminal upgrade.

However, he threw up two immediate hurdles.

“We haven’t had any correspondence with Virgin for a couple of years and an issue that comes with this is we could go and spend $600,000-700,000 on baggage screening equipment that is needed solely for the service they provide, and they could turn around in a month and say it’s not working, and we’re left holding the baby,” he said.

“They would also have to get a concession from CASA because of the runway width.”

On the flipside, Mr Dziewicki welcomed the opportunity for more competitive ticket pricing for travellers.

“It would drive prices down I believe, and put more volume through the airport, which would allow us to control our own pricing better.

“There’s definitely money to be made in it, so I’d certainly be looking at it.”

Mr Dziewicki said historically the Central Highlands had shown it could support two commercial airlines when Flight West was the second carrier until it folded in 2001.

A 370 per cent increase in passenger numbers through Emerald Airport since 1998-99 to 120,000 last year was another strong indicator the marketplace was big enough to support two large commercial carriers as well as the existing raft of smaller-scale operators.

“I guess this year the growth hasn’t been as much, but it’s growth where a lot of other places are showing losses, so we’re still a strong market here,” commented Mr Dziewicki.

“The whisper is the mining boom is about to really hit the area, but you ain’t seen anything yet.

“We are in a good position to be prepared for strong growth in services.”

Mr Dziewicki said indications were Qantaslink was going to take three of the six check-ins at the new terminal, due for completion in June, and establish a Qantas lounge for its customers.

The airline was showing ‘plenty of confidence’ in the future of the Central Highlands, he added, praising Qantaslink’s ability to consistently provide ‘good aircraft, good schedules and good service’.

Virgin’s media relations manager Amanda Bolger confirmed the Emerald route was under consideration, as well as an expansion into the Gladstone market, but was short on detail.

Gladstone Airport is currently undergoing a $65 million transformation of its runway.

“It’s no secret we’ve been looking at it (Emerald) for a while,” she said.

“It is one of a number of sites across Australia that has the potential to benefit from Virgin Blue services… but there are no further plans at this stage.”

Virgin would use its 66-seater Embraer 170 and 92-seat 190 jets on any expanded regional network.

Central Queensland News did some comparative internet shopping yesterday, looking for the lowest fares offered by Qantaslink on its Emerald-Brisbane run and Virgin Blue’s Rockhampton-Brisbane return flights.

On Wednesday, January 13, you could soar out of Emerald for $209 on the 6.55pm flight. From Rocky, with no luggage, it was $58.50 for a booking.

Returning on Friday, January 15, the 5.45am Qantaslink flight from Brisbane was $121.

Fifteen minutes later on Virgin Blue, the Go! Fare was $42.50, sans baggage which attracts an extra $10.

A full fare Emerald-Brisbane return is $1100.

Virgin Blue’s premium economy out of Rocky is $858.

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Walk-in mine a gem

UP FOR AWARD: The Miners Heritage Walk-In Mine tour.

The Miners Heritage Walk-In Mine is competing for a tourism award

New store opened in Clermont

KENNEDY & GRACE: Store owner Chloe Hodgkinson with her children in the new shop in Clermont.

Clermont is home to the newly re-opened Kennedy & Grace.

Girls night out in memory of Kim-Marie Brown

SUPPORT: Grace Ferguson with her parents Kyle and Kim, at the day for diabetes held in Dingo at the weekend.
Photo Meghan Kidd / CQ News

Girls Night Out in memory of Kim-Marie Brown.

Local Partners

Plenty of things to do in the region in the coming week

From dance productions to bargain hunting - here's plenty to do in the region in this week and next

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

Peter Pan comes to Emerald

Peter Pan comes to the Central Highlands.

Peter Pan flies in to the Central Highlands this month

A little mystery adds fun to this event

SOIREE: Executive committee member, Rach McDowall.

Enjoy a mysterious night out at the Shed Soiree.

Azealia Banks won't take legal action against Russell Crowe

Rapper Azealia Banks

Rapper drops legal action against Russell Crowe

Brad Pitt meets with his kids amid divorce proceedings

Actor Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt has met up with his oldest son Maddox

Pictures of Taylor Swift allegedly being groped are sealed

They could "complicate jury selection".

Bruce Springsteen finds therapy useful

Singer Bruce Springsteen

Singer encourages others to seek help

Kerry Washington wants one more child

Kerry Washington recently gave birth to her second child

Kerry has only just become a new mum again

TRAVEL: Musicals light up Sydney

David Campbell performs in Dream Lover.

We take a trip through one of Sydney's finer scenes

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

What our mayor thinks of the new draft SEQPlan

The plan to use the innovative technology as part of the new Maroochydore CBD was cemented on site today when Mayor Mark Jamieson and Envac Asia Region president Chun Yong Ha formally signed the contract for the $20 million underground waste collection system.

New plan accommodates Sunshine Coast Council's vision for growth.

Dusit Thani finance crisis 'just a small hiccup'

ON TRACK: Springfield Land Chairman, Maha Sinnathamby, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Developer Richard Turner and Springfield Land Deputy Chairman, Bob Sharpless, at the recent resort sod turning ceremony.

Property developer says project remains firmly on track