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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Tourism, Regional Development and Industry
    The Honourable Desley Boyle

    QLD Government delivers better and cheaper regional air services

    Minister for Tourism, Regional Development and Industry
    The Honourable Desley Boyle

    Monday, January 28, 2008

    QLD Government delivers better and cheaper regional air services

    New air service contracts provided under the Queensland Government's regional transport initiative – qconnect – will deliver major service improvements and fare reductions across the State from April 1.

    Minister for Tourism, Regional Development and Industry and Member for Cairns Desley Boyle, announced in Cairns today that the 10 contracted air service routes would be provided by QantasLink and MacAir.

    Ms Boyle said key improvements negotiated by the government included:
    • larger and/or faster aircraft
    • lower/more equitable fares
    • increased frequency
    • improved marketing
    • qconnect connectivity with other public transport.

    Ms Boyle said in most cases the new arrangement would see increased capacity and more comfortable aircraft.

    “There are no fare increases on any routes, but the real win for tourists, businesses and residents is that fares have been cut on six of the ten routes, with the biggest reduction of $76, or 43 percent, in the resident fare between Cairns and Horn Island,” Ms Boyle said.

    "These new contracts confirm the government's commitment to affordable regular air services to country and regional Queensland for at least the next five years, with the added bonus of improved reliability and more services.

    "The government will invest $4.8 million every year to ensure that fares are kept at affordable levels on all routes and to guarantee services are viable in areas of low demand.”

    Ms Boyle said the airline companies have committed to using modern, efficient and comfortable aircraft.

    “QantasLink will predominantly use new state of the art Bombardier Q400 72 seat aircraft to service Horn Island, Weipa and Longreach and the Dash 8 Q300 50 seat aircraft to Roma, Charleville, Barcaldine and Blackall," Ms Boyle said.

    “The Bombardier Q400 aircraft offers jet like speed which will revolutionise air travel to these communities and reduce flight times by 20 percent.

    “MacAir will retire the Fairchild Metro fleet in preference for the 34-seat SAAB aircraft and, on the Cloncurry route, 50 seat ATR 42-500 aircraft larger. These are more reliable aircraft with full standing headroom, overhead lockers, more comfortable seats, an onboard toilet, cabin staff and in-flight meals.

    "Overall we will see improved efficiency and quality of travel for Queensland residents and visitors," she said.

    Minister for Transport John Mickel said the new contracts resulted from an extensive open tendering process conducted by Queensland Transport. The tenders were assessed by a panel of experts drawn from the Department of Tourism, Regional Development and Industry, Department of Public Works, Tourism Queensland and Queensland Transport.

    "The panel assessed applications on the basis of how efficiently and effectively the operators would service the current and future needs of remote and rural transport-disadvantaged communities," Mr Mickel said.

    "In the vast outback of Queensland, reliable and regular air services are absolutely vital to link communities and provide people with access to health, education, work and tourism centres. These air services are essential to the economic well-being of western and Far North Queensland.

    "The new contracts reflect a process of extensive consultation with communities throughout regional Queensland. This included face to face meetings, submissions from stakeholders and surveys," he said.

    Ms Boyle said that, because of improved route viability and increased patronage, five of the 10 routes would not require Government subsidies. This compared with the existing contracts where all but two routes required subsidies.

    [NOTE: Details of the new contracts are attached.]

    Media contact:
    Minister Boyle - 3225 1005 or 0419 025 326
    Minister Mickel - 3237 1944 or 0409 305 669



    qconnect regional air service routes from April 1, 2008

    ROUTE
    Western 1 – Brisbane to Oakey, St George, Cunnamulla and Thargomindah: Operated by MacAir with 34-seat SAAB 340B aircraft (replacing the 19-seat Metros used previously - once all airports enroute obtain certification to carry SAAB 340B aircraft), increasing seat capacity by nearly 80%. Advantages of the SAAB are: full standing headroom, overhead lockers, more comfortable seats, an onboard toilet, cabin staff and in-flight meals. Fares are unchanged. To improve passenger comfort, MacAir has offered to fund the introduction of air conditioners and water coolers to all airports that it flies to on the regulated network that do not currently have these facilities.

    Western 2 – Brisbane to Charleville, Quilpie, Windorah, Birdsville, Bedourie, Boulia and Mt Isa: Operated by MacAir with 34-seat SAAB 340B aircraft (replacing the 19-seat Metros used previously - once all airports enroute obtain certification to carry SAAB 340B aircraft), increasing seat capacity by nearly 80%. Advantages of the SAAB are: full standing headroom, overhead lockers, more comfortable seats, an onboard toilet, cabin staff and in-flight meals. Fares are unchanged. To improve passenger comfort, MacAir has offered to fund the introduction of air conditioners and water coolers to all airports that it flies to on the regulated network that do not currently have these facilities. The operation of the route has also changed slightly to improve on-time performance: instead of one aircraft flying the whole route in one day, two aircraft will be used – one based at Mt Isa, the other based at Brisbane, meeting at Windorah for transit of through-passengers. MacAir advises that this operational change would reduce the likelihood of service disrupts due to the reduced stress on each individual aircraft thereby improving on-time performance and customer satisfaction.

    Central 1 – Brisbane to Roma and Charleville: Operated by QantasLink with predominantly Dash 8 50 seat aircraft increasing capacity by 40%. Significant fare reductions, including the introduction of a new residents-only fare, reducing the lowest priced fare from Charleville to Brisbane by $34 to $135 and slashing the lowest priced fare from Roma to Brisbane by $30 to $89. Increased frequency to Roma – from 10 to 13 return services per week including double daily services Monday to Friday and Sunday including new early departures Monday and Friday and evening departures Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday and Thursday, 8 of which would be direct Roma-Brisbane only (ie not shared with Charleville or Barcaldine), compared to 4 (peak) / 6 (off peak) currently. More direct services from Charleville to Brisbane (ie not via Roma) – 4 compared to 2 currently on Monday / Tuesday / Friday and Saturday reducing flight times by 25 minutes, with the remaining 3 services operating via Roma as per current.

    Central 2 – Brisbane to Barcaldine/Blackall and Longreach: Operated by QantasLink with Bombardier Q400 72 seat aircraft and Dash 8 Q300 50 seat aircraft, increasing capacity by 18%. Restructuring of services will provide two more direct services between Longreach and Brisbane, bringing the number of direct services to three each week, all of which will use the newer, larger Bombardier Q400 72 seat aircraft, increasing capacity on the route by a third and reducing flight times by 20%. Barcaldine and Blackall retain 3 services per week each with Roma services extended to Barcaldine 2 times per week, creating opportunities to link both markets. Significant fare reductions, including the introduction of a new residents-only fare, cutting the lowest priced fare from Longreach to Brisbane by $30 to $149, and from Barcaldine and Blackall to Brisbane to $139.


    Northern 1 – Townsville to Winton and Longreach: Operated by MacAir with 34-seat SAAB 340B aircraft (replacing the 19-seat Metros used previously once Winton Airport is certified to accept SAAB 340B aircraft), increasing seat capacity by nearly 80%. Advantages of the SAAB are: full standing headroom, overhead lockers, more comfortable seats, an onboard toilet, cabin staff and in-flight meals. Maximum fare levels to Townsville reduced by $30 for Longreach passengers and $10 for Winton passengers. To improve passenger comfort, MacAir has offered to fund the introduction of air conditioners and water coolers to all airports that it flies to on the regulated network that do not currently have these facilities.

    Northern 2 – Townsville to Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek and Mt Isa: Operated by MacAir with 34-seat SAAB 340B aircraft (replacing the 19-seat Metros used previously - once all airports enroute obtain certification to carry SAAB 340B aircraft), increasing seat capacity by nearly 80%. Advantages of the SAAB are: full standing headroom, overhead lockers, more comfortable seats, an onboard toilet, cabin staff and in-flight meals. Fares unchanged. To improve passenger comfort, MacAir has offered to fund the introduction of air conditioners and water coolers to all airports that it flies to on the regulated network that do not currently have these facilities.

    Northern 3 – Townsville to Cloncurry and Mt Isa: Operated by MacAir with 50-seat ATR-42 aircraft. Fares unchanged. To improve passenger comfort, MacAir has offered to fund the introduction of air conditioners and water coolers to all airports that it flies to on the regulated network that do not currently have these facilities.

    Gulf
    Cairns to Normanton, Gununa, Burketown, Doomadgee and Mt Isa: Operated by MacAir with 34-seat SAAB 340B aircraft to all airports on the route (currently, the SAAB does not operate to Burketown, but will under the new contract once the airport is certified). Maximum fare levels reduced – for example, Mornington Island to Cairns slashed by $70, Doomadgee to Mt Isa cut by nearly $60. To improve passenger comfort, MacAir has offered to fund the introduction of air conditioners and water coolers to all airports that it flies to on the regulated network that do not currently have these facilities.

    Cairns to Horn Island: Operated by QantasLink with larger, faster 72-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft, cutting travel times by 25 minutes and increasing capacity by 40%, including three additional services to Cairns each week, operating via Weipa, providing a major improvement for islanders seeking access to medical, education or work centres on the mainland. The new schedule will also include 3 services per day on peak days of Monday / Wednesday / Friday and double daily services on Tuesday / Thursday / Saturday and Sunday. Significant fare reductions for all fare types, including the introduction of a new residents-only fare, cutting the lowest priced fare from Horn Island to Cairns by $76 or 43 percent to just $99 and the full economy fare is now more than $70 or 16% lower.

    Cairns to Weipa: Operated by QantasLink with larger, faster 72-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft, cutting travel times by 15 minutes. Three additional services per week to Cairns and to Horn Island providing 16 return services per week and an increase of 59% capacity with triple daily services on Monday / Wednesday / Friday and double daily services on Tuesday / Thursday / Sunday. Significant fare reductions for all fare types, including the introduction of a new residents-only fare, cutting the lowest priced fare from Weipa to Cairns by $60 or 40 percent to just $89.