By Raquel Mustillo
QANTAS state manager South Australia Anthony Penney says passengers will be able to book flights from Mount Gambier to Mackay, Manila or Mumbai and return with the launch of the national carrier in the Limestone Coast.
Hordes of residents turned out at the Mount Gambier Regional Airport on Sunday morning to welcome the Flying Kangaroo into the region.
Country Fire Service crews conducted a ceremonial water arch to mark the start of new flights into Mount Gambier before passengers were greeted by elected officials, business leaders and Qantas executives.
At an event celebrating the first arrival, Mr Penney said the airline was proud to help drive domestic visitation to South Australia’s second largest city and enable greater connectivity to Australian and international destinations.
“Before COVID, more than 11 million Australian passengers were travelling overseas, so by enabling our flights out of Melbourne and Adelaide to Mount Gambier we hope to drive more traffic into the Limestone Coast,” he said.
“We have been working quite closely with the South Australian Tourism Commission and everyone around the Limestone Coast to highlight everything that is on offer so we can drive more visitation and help grow and diversify the economy.
“You can book a flight from Mount Gambier to Melbourne or to Manila or Mumbai and return.
“We have had lead in fares as low as $99 so I am sure people from the community will more than welcome increased competition, increased choice and hopefully more competitive fares moving forward.”
Qantas operates five weekly return flights from Mount Gambier to both Adelaide and Melbourne.
The flights will be operated by the airline’s 50-seat Q300 turboprop aircraft, which features upgraded cabin interiors, and will offer 500 seats on each route per week.
South Australian Tourism Commission chief executive Rodney Harrex said the extra flights will significantly build confidence in the region’s tourism and business sectors.
“Victoria is our largest interstate domestic overnight market, so these additional flights are going to be a great boost for local businesses in the South East and further drive visitation to the Limestone Coast from Adelaide and Melbourne,” he said.
“Having additional services means that we can continue to grow visitation, rebuild the visitor economy and create more jobs.
“I congratulate Qantas on further committing to the South Australian market, helping our visitor economy recover and supporting the work of the South Australian Tourism Commission.”
Member for Barker Tony Pasin praised the new $9.2m Mount Gambier Regional Airport – partly funded by a Federal Government grant – and the company for flying the Melbourne-Mount Gambier-Adelaide leg.
“Standing out there watching QF2215 land and taxi into the Mount Gambier airport, I almost caught a tear in my eye,” he said.
“I remembered a meeting with [Qantas chief executive] Alan Joyce in 2013 where it was suggested that my wish to bring Qantas flights to Mount Gambier was an unrealistic goal.
“To be here today and see that aircraft land and Qantas as the great Australians’ commitment to our region, I have to tell you it is right up there in all of the achievements I have been able to partner with communities to achieve.”