‘Commercial decision’: MP weighs in after flights axed

HINKLER MP Keith Pitt has weighed in on Virgin Australia's decision to axe flights between Sydney and Hervey Bay.

Mr Pitt said while he was disappointed, the decision to stop the route was a commercial decision for the airline.

"If there are not enough people taking flights then it becomes commercially unviable for that business," he said.

There have been no direct flights between Hervey Bay and Sydney since late March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday the Fraser Coast Regional Council confirmed the $20 million upgrade of Hervey Bay Airport's runway will proceed as planned.

The refurbishment of the runway and airfield lighting started in July and, according to a statement from the council, was vital to the airport's infrastructure, ensuring the airport continued to meet required national design and safety standards.

"Work has already begun on the Hervey Bay Airport Renewal Project and is expected to take around 11 months to complete," Mr Pitt said.

"The Australian Government is supporting the domestic aviation sector by providing more than $1.3 billion across a range of initiatives, including ensuring domestic services continue, as well as subsidising regional routes under the $198 million Regional Airline Network Support Program, which ensures connectivity to regional and rural communities are maintained.

"Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has had a range of impacts in our region on businesses, families and individuals and the tourism industry due to border closures."

Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said the airline's decision to cancel flights between Hervey Bay and Sydney was disappointing but not unexpected given the travel restrictions in place because of COVID-19.

"Air services provide a vital link for our tourism industry and our residents, and the loss of the Virgin flights from Sydney to Hervey Bay will be a big blow for our community," Cr Seymour said.

"While the drive market accounts for about 80 per cent of the Fraser Coast region's tourists, the Virgin flights had been a direct connection to Australia's biggest city.

"We know that the tourism and travel industry is going to be different following the COVID-19 pandemic and that the aviation sector will change.

"New airlines may emerge and existing airlines could fill the gaps left by Virgin.

"For our part, council will continue to advocate for more flights for our community and is ready to talk with airlines to see what help we can provide as COVID-19 restrictions ease and demand for flights returns."

In addition to Hervey Bay, flights from Sydney to Albury, Ayers Rock, Tonga, Port Macquarie and Tamworth have also been cut.