Green light tipped for international flights

INTERNATIONAL flights between Townsville and Bali could commence shortly with the Federal Government expected to underwrite the cost of setting up customs and immigration services.

Herbert MP Ewen Jones has been lobbying his colleagues in Canberra to cover the cost of providing the services and a breakthrough is expected in the coming weeks.

Townsville Airport has been in discussions with AirAsia and Jetstar to commence direct flights but the high cost of providing customs, quarantine and border protection services has been a sticking point.

While a charge of $55 per passenger is levied at other airports with regular international services, it is understood the Department of Immigration and Border Protection had called for $90 per passenger to be levied at Townsville to account for the increased costs of flying staff to the city.

Herbert MP Ewen Jones said he had been in regular contact with the Prime Minister’s office, as well as Transport Minister Warren Truss and new Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

“I remain confident for a great result. It’s just about when we can get the parties to sign,” he said.

“We feel very confident we will have something worth talking to Townsville Airport about. This has been a whole-of-government approach.

“Peter Dutton has been very forthright and proactive since taking on the role of Immigration Minister. Being from Queensland, he understands Townsville and the nature of the business.”

Townsville Airport chief executive Kevin Gill said he was continuing constructive negotiations with a number of airlines and the Federal Government.

“It is evident from the level of interest that demand exists for international services and it is imperative that a solution acceptable to all parties is reached as soon as possible,” he said.

It is understood AirAisa is interested in commencing direct flights between Townsville and Denpasar three times a week.

A spokesman for AirAsia said discussions with Townsville Airport had been underway for some time but no services to Townsville were imminent

“Townsville, like other regional centres in Australia and elsewhere, has the capacity to sustain international services for inbound and outbound tourism opportunities and will continue to be considered,” the spokesman said.

Jetstar has also expressed its interest in introducing direct flights to Bali in the second half of this year, but won’t commit until the customs issue has been resolved.

Anthony Galloway, Townsville Bulletin – Published Thursday 29 January 2015 – Townsville Bulletin Website