Bega Valley Shire Council Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick thanked Qantas Airways as Merimbula welcomed its first QantasLink passengers to the upgraded Merimbula Airport, from Sydney.
Thirty-eight passengers were onboard the aircraft, including Qantas Group chief financial officer Vanessa Hudson.
“As the national carrier, we have an important role to play in helping the industry recover from COVID-19,” she said.
“The best way to drive tourism is by making it even easier for Australians to explore incredible places in their own backyard, especially with international borders closed for some time to come.
“This is the first time Qantas has ever offered a direct flight to Merimbula, which will mean more competitive fares for passengers.
“These flights will bring more tourists to experience the beautiful beaches and unique wildlife of the Sapphire Coast, and also give locals more choice in how they get to Sydney and beyond.
“Ongoing international border closures are fuelling demand for domestic travel. We’ve seen a strong response from travellers since these flights went on sale, and have extended the service to operate through to October next year.”
Mayor Fitzpatrick welcomed the flight.
“This has long been our goal, to prepare airport infrastructure for increased passenger and freight services,” he said.
“We welcome QantasLink as one of two passenger airlines servicing the needs of business and recreational customers wanting to travel to and from Sydney.
“Increasing passenger services will deliver greater investment to the shire’s business community, which is well timed as it’s been a particularly difficult year for local small business owners.
“Having two operators means doubling the exposure we receive through the wide-reaching marketing of two established airlines, as well as doubling options for people wanting to travel to and from Sydney.”
The Destination Agency’s managing director, Anthony Osborne, said the value of Qantas investing locally will be felt across the Bega Valley Shire.
“As a destination, we are super excited to welcome one of Australia’s most iconic tourism brands into our region,” he said.
“Their confidence in investing in the Sapphire Coast as a destination will lift our visibility enormously – particularly in the high-value Sydney market – and inspire our local industry and businesses to expand their offerings to cater to a new market.”
Mayor Fitzpatrick said the local community has been supportive of council’s move to upgrade terminal services at Merimbula Airport in preparation for attracting additional passenger services.
Bega Valley Shire Council advised that passengers aboard Qantas flight QF 2195 were not screened for COVID-19 at Merimbula Airport, but the airport’s COVID-19 safety plan was operational.
Council said Merimbula Airport continues to monitor the latest advice from NSW Health, has multiple hand sanitising units available throughout the airport, is using physical distancing measures and recommending the use of facemasks within the terminal.