Qantas scrap Port Hedland-Brisbane route less than six months after it begins due to low passenger numbers

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Generic Perth Airport pics. Qantas plane. Geoffrey Thomas
Camera IconGeneric Perth Airport pics. Qantas plane. Geoffrey Thomas Credit: Geoffrey Thomas/The West Australian

Qantas has scrapped its Port Hedland to Brisbane route just six months after introducing it, citing low passenger numbers as the catalyst behind the move.

The route will cease operation on March 26, just 206 days after it was introduced, sparking outcry from Town of Port Hedland Mayor Peter Carter.

“It seems a bit disingenuous for Qantas to blame a lack of passenger numbers when the ticket prices were so high – and out of reach for many individuals and families given the current cost-of-living pressures,” he said.

The Town of Port Hedland had, at its August 2023 Ordinary Council Meeting, endorsed payments to Qantas to incentivise the return of the weekly route.

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Town of Port Hedland Mayor Peter Carter and airport CEO Dave Batic
Camera IconTown of Port Hedland Mayor Peter Carter and airport CEO Dave Batic. Credit: Supplied

The Town used money from an Upside Sharing Deed, which has been in place with Port Hedland International Airport since 2016, to make payments.

The deed is a profit-sharing agreement that provides funding to the Town when passenger numbers exceed a baseline figure.

As part of the deal, payments are only made while the flights are in service. Once they cease, no more payments will be made to Qantas and will only be considered again if the service recommences.

“In real terms, no ratepayer money has been used in the current arrangement to incentivise the return of the Brisbane route,” Mayor Carter said.

“However, it is still incredibly disappointing that Qantas has decided to pull the pin on this service so quickly.”

It comes as Port Hedland International Airport stalls on its goal to see Hedland to Bali flights return.

It’s understood PHIA is currently negotiating with two Indonesian airlines for the return of the route.

However late last year, PHIA chief executive Dave Batic told the North West Telegraph a major holdup in getting Bali flights back was acquiring the necessary staff.

“Australian Border Force are required to service these flights so we are working through the logistics of getting Australian Border Force Staff from Perth Airport to service overseas flights,” he said.

Flights to Brisbane and Bali from the PHIA were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic because of quarantine laws.

In March 2022 Mr Batic announced Virgin flights to Bali would resume later that year, but the plans were scrapped due to what Virgin claimed was low demand.

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