Regional airline JetGo will be running direct flights from the Illawarra to Brisbane and Melbourne as early as October.
The airline newcomer was unveiled as Shellharbour council’s chosen carrier for its resurrected regular passenger service from Albion Park.
After a confidential council session on Tuesday, councillors unanimously endorsed the general manager to negotiate a contract with JetGo.
Mayor Marianne Saliba said the service would begin in October, subject to regulatory approval, and would include nine one-hour-and-15-minute flights to Melbourne’s Essendon airport.
Essendon is located halfway between Tullamarine airport and Melbourne’s CBD.
There will be six weekly return flights – lasting an hour and 35 minutes each way – to Brisbane.
JetGo’s managing director Paul Bredereck said the airline targeted Illawarra Regional Airport (IRA) because it was the only major Australian population centre that did not have scheduled services.
He said fares would be competitive with Qantas and Virgin “starting from $155 one way from to both Brisbane and Melbourne, with more than half of all seats available for under $200”.
Drinks and snacks will be included in the ticket price, and Mr Broderick said there would be “special launch offers” when the service begins.
Cr Saliba said the agreement with JetGo had helped Shellharbour councillors to cap off their six-year term.
“We have been wanting to make the airport a commercial, viable business that belongs to our community because the better it does, the less we have to rely on our rates to support this business,” she said.
Cr Saliba said there was a possibility JetGo would be given an “exclusivity deal” for a period of time, to offset set-up costs.
“I don’t know, but it’s commonsense that if they come and establish a business at a cost to them that we would allow them to recoup their costs before we considered anyone else,” she said.
The Brisbane-based JetGo – which approached the council with its plan to operate flights from the Illawarra – has operated charter flights since 2012 and commercial services since 2014.
It already flies between a number of regional destinations including the Gold Coast, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton, Tamworth, Townsville, Albury and Dubbo.
Last week, it announced it was expanding its services from Wagga Wagga to include the Gold Coast.
But, in three weeks time, the service from Port Macquarie to Melbourne will be suspended as it has been deemed no longer viable after six months in operation.