Commercial air services have returned to the Far West with the first regular passenger flight taking off from Bourke for the first time in 12 years, thanks to the efforts of the NSW Government and the Far North West Joint Organisation.
Minister for Western NSW Adam Marshall, FNWJO Chair Lilliane Brady and Bourke Mayor Barry Hollman yesterday greeted passengers as they boarded Airlink flight 1301, which departed Bourke Airport bound for Dubbo.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said the new Airlink services would deliver tourists and business opportunities to Bourke, Walgett and Lightning Ridge and provide easier access to Dubbo Airport for locals travelling to Sydney and beyond.
“This flight does more than just connect the city and the country, it opens the NSW outback to the rest of the world,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Overseas tourists wanting an authentic outback experience can now easily travel to Lightning Ridge to learn about black opals and visit the Artesian Bore Baths, gain an appreciation of Bourke’s art and culture history and enjoy Walgett’s hospitality.
“The discounted Community Fares available to Bourke, Walgett and Lightning Ridge locals means they will no longer have to drive up to four hours to Dubbo Airport just to catch a one hour flight to Sydney.”
Mr Marshall said the 14,248 seats now available each year on the new Airlink and Fly Pelican routes would help connect the people of Far North Western NSW to family, jobs, education and medical services.
“This is an incredible win for people living and working in the Far North West, who have been waiting 12 years for passenger flights to return to Bourke and Walgett,” Mr Marshall said.
“Connectivity is critical in a modern economy and the NSW Government funding that enabled the return of these air services, which will benefit local businesses by providing access for skilled workers and investment opportunities.”
Cr Brady said the return of passenger flights shows how Joint Organisations and the NSW Government are working together to deliver much needed, convenient and reliable services for the regional communities they serve.
“Our member councils worked together to negotiate a fantastic outcome for our communities, including discounted fares for locals that will make these services both affordable and convenient,” Cr Brady said.
Air Link General Manager Ron O’Brien said Far West locals are excited about the prospect of being able to travel to Dubbo using discounted Community Fares.
“We are proud to offer Community Fares on Air Link flights to full time residents living in the Local Government Areas of Bourke, Walgett and Brewarrina, which we believe is particularly important given the impact of the drought,” Mr O’Brien said.
“For the past 40 years I’ve been passionate about linking communities in regional NSW with Australia’s major cities and I’m incredibly excited that Air Link will be servicing Bourke, Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Dubbo.
Air Link services is operating seven passenger seat Chieftain aircraft on round trips to Dubbo/Bourke on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Dubbo/Walgett on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and Walgett/Lightning Ridge on Tuesday and Thursday.
On September 24 2019, FlyPelican began operating Metro Jetstream 32 aircraft seating up to 19 passengers and two pilots on round trips between Cobar/Dubbo on Monday and Thursday and Cobar/Sydney on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Flights have been scheduled to allow ample time for passengers to transfer to connecting flights from Dubbo to Sydney.
The NSW Government provided $8 million to ensure routes remain sustainable and affordable for locals, businesses and tourists.
The Far North West Joint Organisation was established in July 2018 by the Bourke, Cobar and Walgett councils.