Vic-Busso flights to take off

The West Australian - - NEWS - EX­CLU­SIVE GE­OF­FREY THOMAS AND PETER DE KRUIJFF

Af­ter al­most two years of ne­go­ti­a­tions, Jet­star Air­ways has agreed to op­er­ate a heav­ily sub­sidised flight from Mel­bourne to Bus­sel­ton.

The di­rect link con­nect­ing Vic­to­ri­ans to the Mar­garet River re­gion will start in April.

The 186-seat Air­bus A320 flight will run year round, three times weekly and ar­rive in Bus­sel­ton at 9.30am and de­part for Mel­bourne at 10.10am.

It is un­clear how much the flights will cost, al­though it is un­der­stood Jet­star will be of­fer­ing dis­counted in­tro­duc­tory fares.

The an­nounce­ment will be made this Fri­day in Bus­sel­ton.

The City of Bus­sel­ton had wanted Qan­tas or Vir­gin Aus­tralia to op­er­ate the ser­vice but both air­lines tuned down the op­por­tu­nity.

Ac­cord­ing to Mel­bourne sources, the ser­vice had to be heav­ily sub­sidised to get Jet­star to agree.

Sup­port from the City of Bus­sel­ton, Tourism WA and a legacy con­tri­bu­tion from Roy­alty for Re­gions amounts to a sub­sidy of be­tween $6 and $8 mil­lion over three years.

It is un­der­stood most of the con­tri­bu­tion is com­ing from the coun­cil. This is about three times the nor­mal amount of­fered to an air­line, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try ex­perts.

Con­trary to re­ports, this ser­vice will not be the cat­a­lyst to build­ing a new ter­mi­nal at Bus­sel­ton as Jet­star has said it does not want a new fa­cil­ity.

Sim­i­larly, it is un­der­stood the State Gov­ern­ment will not com­mit funds for a new ter­mi­nal un­til the ser­vice proves it­self.

In June 2015, fund­ing was al­lo­cated from Roy­alty for Re­gions for the re­de­vel­op­ment of the air­port and it was re­named Bus­sel­ton Mar­garet River Air­port.

A $69.7 mil­lion re­de­vel­op­ment started in 2017, which in­cluded length­en­ing, widen­ing and strength­en­ing of the run­way to fa­cil­i­tate Code E air­craft — large planes such as the 300-pas­sen­ger A330.

The City of Bus­sel­ton hopes to at­tract in­ter­na­tional air­lines to the air­port in the fu­ture.

City of Bus­sel­ton Mayor Grant Hen­ley said he could nei­ther con­firm nor deny flights to and from Mel­bourne had been se­cured.

He said get­ting an east coast route into Bus­sel­ton would, how­ever, add a lot of value to the South West re­gion.

“Air­ports in rea­son­able prox­im­ity (to cap­i­tal cities) work be­cause of vis­i­tor de­mand,” he said. “For them (vis­i­tors) to fly di­rectly to the re­gion opens up an­other op­por­tu­nity for the State.”

Vasse MP Libby Met­tam said if flights were se­cured, it would be a fan­tas­tic devel­op­ment for the re­gion.

“We know grow­ing the Mar­garet River re­gion is es­sen­tial to grow­ing tourism in this State,” she said.

“The re­gion is the most pop­u­lar tourism des­ti­na­tion out­side of Perth . . . we have world-class events and our film fes­ti­val has the rich­est film prize in the coun­try. Re­gional avi­a­tion is a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge . . . try­ing to achieve those op­por­tu­ni­ties will al­ways be very dif­fi­cult but they are worth in­vest­ing in.”

Es­tab­lished di­rect routes from Mel­bourne into WA in­clude flights to Perth, Kal­go­or­lie and Broome.

A 73-seat ser­vice by Al­liance Air­lines be­tween Ku­nunurra and Mel­bourne, which will be sold through Vir­gin, is sched­uled to start three times a week be­tween May and Au­gust next year.

He­len Mir­ren de­lighted crowds in Paris at the week­end as she skipped bare­foot down the run­way with all the buoy­ant en­thu­si­asm of a teenager. The 74-year-old wowed fash­ion­istas in a flow­ing chif­fon grey and white Gi­ambat­tista Valli dress at a L’Oreal show — out­shin­ing A-lis­ters in­clud­ing Ch­eryl Tweedy, Geri Horner, Eva Lon­go­ria and Andie MacDow­ell. Dame He­len, who is a brand am­bas­sador for L’Oreal, once ad­mit­ted that us­ing mois­turiser “prob­a­bly does f... all” for the com­plex­ion.

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