Campaigners welcome Qantas decision to use larger aircraft on Geraldton route
Residents who have been campaigning for larger aircraft to service Geraldton for years rejoiced yesterday as Qantas announced the first Airbus would be coming to town this month.
From July 27, the airline will use the Airbus A320 on Tuesday and Thursday morning flights, which a spokesperson said would add extra seats during peak travel times.
Qantas now uses a Fokker 100 aircraft for 13 weekly flights on the route, which accommodate a maximum of 100 passengers.
Before Virgin Australia ceased operations in Geraldton, there were an average of between 17 and 20 weekly flights to and from Perth.
The City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the twice-weekly use of the 180-seat aircraft would lead to more efficient travel between Perth and Geraldton.
“Certainly regular travellers will welcome the increased capacity and efficiency of larger aircraft,” he said.
“We expect that over time this will become a norm for the route.”
Tourism advocate and Broadwater Hotel managing director Scott Cogar has been advocating for larger aircraft to service Geraldton for years, going as far as chartering a Boeing 737 with Qantas to demonstrate it could be done in the port city.
Mr Cogar said the announcement was a big win for the Mid West region.
“The first Airbus service coming into Geraldton is a major event ... I am personally really happy to see this aircraft coming in,” he said.
“I don’t think for a moment this is an overnight game changer or a silver bullet to fixing regional aviation and tourism ... but it is a really good step forward.”
Mr Cogar said it was logical to assume the increase in seat capacity would mean customers would have access to more cheap tickets.
“(Use of the Airbus) will mean an 80 per cent increase on supply on that particular flight, and even though it might not affect the weekly capacity by more than about 12 per cent, it affects that flight,” he said.
“I think in the next month or two I will be watching with interest and see if more of those cheaper fares become available on those larger aircraft.”
Mr Cogar recognised the flight days and times had been selected due to “operational necessity” but said the Airbus would ideally service customers wanting to go between Geraldton and Perth for the weekend.
“Pre-COVID when the planes were operating at higher load factors, I know that the Monday morning and Friday afternoon flights had very heavy load factors and would probably justify a bigger aircraft,” he said.
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