Resource downturn hits air route
Airnorth will next month axe its weekly return services linking Karratha and Port Hedland to Broome, Kununurra and Darwin.
The Bristow Helicopters-owned company blamed a downturn in the resource sector within the Pilbara and said “the viability of the services has been subject to ongoing review”.
“Unfortunately our analysis over the past few months has indicated declining passenger demand for these services and, as a result, the weekly service will cease,” an Airnorth spokeswoman said.
The carrier said it would contact passengers affected by the cancellations and refunds would be available for passengers.
The last Airnorth service to the Pilbara (Karratha and Port Hedland) will be Tuesday, May 17, 2016.
Karratha-based accountant Mark Hethernan uses the Airnorth service out of the Pilbara when he works in Broome for one week every month.
“I feel that too often these big corporates take the easy money in good times and do not support regional areas when things get a bit tough,” he said.
“I am an accountant and understand economics, but also understand money is not completely everything.”
Airnorth chief executive Daniel Bowden said the carrier was committed to the Broome market and still offered daily services linking the Kimberley town to Kununurra and Darwin, and onward connections from either Broome or Darwin.
“We also connect Kununurra and Darwin to Perth via Broome with our codeshare partner Qantas,” he said.
“We will continue to monitor the local market for additional opportunities and would like to thank all our customers and the Broome region for their continued support.”
Broome International Airport general manager Paul McSweeney said although the news was disappointing, the decision was understandable in the economic climate.
“Airnorth is a valuable airport customer that still offers good connections to Kununurra, Darwin and beyond,” he said.
“We work closely with Airnorth and, should the market pick up again, we will work closely with them to try get these routes back.”
Australia’s North West Tourism promotes tourism in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions.
ANWT chief executive Glen Chidlow said the move highlighted the difficulty in maintaining intra-regional jet services.
“But importantly for residents and visitors to the Kimberley, there are still daily connections between Broome, Kununurra and Darwin,” he said.
Broome Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rhondda Chappell said the cancellation was “greatly disappointing” and could have an effect on businesses in Broome and the Pilbara.
Ms Chappell said the BCCI would present a case to Airnorth if people could demonstrate a need for the route to continue.
Airnorth has cancelled its weekly return services.