Direct flight gets support
OVERWHELMING public, business and government support for direct Grafton-Sydney flights should help convince Regional Express of the potential for new services out of Grafton, Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson said.
Councillor Williamson said the Clarence Valley Council submitted an expression of interest to Rex after the regional carrier last month called for regional centres within 600km of Sydney to apply.
Cr Williamson said he thought there were compelling arguments in favour of direct Grafton-Sydney services.
"We surveyed government and business leaders, airport users and the general public and the overwhelming response was people were more likely to use a Grafton-Sydney service if there was no stopover in Taree," he said.
"We had more than 400 people respond to our online survey - an impressive figure given the short time it has been available - and 86% of the people who responded said they would choose Grafton airport as their primary departure destination if there was a direct flight.
"There was a similar response from the heads of government agencies who replied.
"Government agencies are big airport users and most of those said 100% of their staff would use a direct service if arrival times were suitable.
"The same message came through loud and clear from filled-out printed surveys as well."
Rex currently operates a triangulated service between Grafton and Sydney but it has a stopover in Taree and Cr Williamson said it was a big disincentive to travellers.
"It makes the trip longer and leads to uncertainty about arrival times," he said.
"Through no fault of Rex, planes can get held up on the tarmac at Taree because air traffic control gives airborne planes preference over those on the ground and if congestion occurs while planes are at Taree, they are the ones that will be delayed most."
Cr Williamson said an estimated 80,000 passengers from the Clarence Valley used air services in Coffs Harbour or Ballina for their travel and if some of the leakage to neighbouring centres could be addressed, passenger numbers through Grafton could grow considerably.