FOR the first time in 11 years, the North West region will gain the benefit of a choice of two major airlines with Virgin Australia to begin services between Mount Isa and Brisbane in August.
Xstrata Mount Isa Mines and Virgin have entered into a heads of agreement to support the new service that will see Virgin flying a 92-seat, Embraer E190 return from Mount Isa to Brisbane Monday to Friday.
Xstrata Copper North Queensland Chief Operating Officer Steve de Kruijff said the announcement comes after passenger numbers flying through Mount Isa Airport increased by 10 per cent between March 2011 and March 2012 to almost 22,000 people per month.
“More competition in the skies is a benefit to the communities in the North West region,” Mr de Kruijff said. “Xstrata has a high demand for flight services for contractors working on our many development projects expanding our operations as well as for business travel to and from our Brisbane head offices.”
Mr de Kruijff said the announcement is also great news for employees and their families in Mount Isa.
“Research conducted with our people over the past few years found the cost of airfares was one of the most critical obstacles to their staying in Mount Isa. Now our people will be better able to plan for their holidays and events on their terms.”
Virgin Australia general manager sales Justin Montgomery said the new services would benefit Mount Isa and regional communities greatly by providing choice on the route.
“Virgin Australia is proud to service the community of Mount Isa. These new services will bring a range of benefits including more competitive pricing, enhanced flight connections and a higher quality overall travel experience.
“The Mount Isa community will be able to connect with our growing network from Brisbane
that includes more than 33 domestic cities and more than 400 international destinations,” Mr Montgomery said.
Mr de Kruijff thanked the other industry groups and bodies in the Mount Isa region that have joined them in voicing a need for a second airline to service Mount Isa.
“Organisations such as the Mount Isa Chamber of Commerce, our local representatives and the State Government should also be recognised for their tireless efforts in pursuing a second airline to come to Mount Isa,” Mr de Kruijff said.
Xstrata will continue to use Qantas and Virgin services to help ensure Mount Isa has two reliable and competitive airlines.