Virgin Australia goes in to voluntary administration - Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce President Sandra Holebrook at Hervey Bay airport. Photo: Cody Fox
Virgin Australia goes in to voluntary administration - Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce President Sandra Holebrook at Hervey Bay airport. Photo: Cody Fox Cody Fox

MAYDAY: Virgin flights key in region's $535m tourism future

PRESSURE is mounting on Hinkler MP Keith Pitt to push his government for further intervention in the Virgin Airlines fallout despite yesterday's resistance to a bailout.

Business and council leaders fear for the future of flights into the Hervey Bay airport under the current plan.

Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said the region depended on its air services.

"Last year Virgin flew up to 80,000 people into the region so it is vital that we have air services for the region to recover as the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted," he said.

"Without Sydney flights by Virgin, which have a specific tourist focus, this puts at risk a significant number of jobs and total tourist spend in the region. 

Cr Seymour said the council had asked the Queensland and Australian governments to consider the significant impact the loss of flights to Hervey Bay by Virgin would have on the region's recovery and the development of the hospitality and tourism industries.

"We also asked that rescheduling of flights to the Fraser Coast, when safe to do so, be included as a condition of any support package," Cr Seymour said.

Mr Pitt said it was a difficult time for Virgin Australia and he felt for every employee, "just as I do for every employee in our local region who may have lost their job or had their hours reduced during the current coronavirus pandemic".

He said the Coalition Government has supported the aviation industry with $1.2 billion committed to maintain operations across the sector and support jobs.

This investment is on top of the $130 billion JobKeeper package to support Australian businesses and employees.

He would not say whether he had a plan to push for flights into his electorate his continue.

"Right now our focus is on the health crisis which we find ourselves in, ensuring the health, wellbeing and safety of every individual Australian, however as we come out of the current coronavirus situation and work our way back to getting the economy up and running, tourism will continue to be an important part of the local economy," he said

"It is important that we still have two commercially viable domestic airlines following the corona pandemic."

Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce president Sandra Holebrook said she could understand why the government was reluctant to bail out Virgin as it wasn't the national airline.

But she said losing services would be a great loss for Australia and the Fraser Coast.

"It would have a dramatic effect on our recovery out of this virus," she said.

"We're very lucky we have a high drive market, that will be our saving grace."

Without two competing airlines, Ms Holebrook feared the cost of regional flights could be much higher.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg both outlined the measures that had already been taken to support the industry, but made it clear the government wanted a market-led solution to maintain a second airline.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese appeared alongside Virgin workers appealing for government action.

"Talk of market-based solutions at the moment is a triumph of ideology over common sense," he said.