Multi-million dollar upgrade goes ahead despite axed flights

THE $20 million upgrade of Hervey Bay Airport's runway will proceed as planned, despite the announcement that Virgin Australia has axed flights between the city and Sydney.

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.

The upgrade, expected to be completed over 11 months, was funded through the Federal Government's Building Better Regions Fund and was a key project in the Hinkler Regional Deal.

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."