What Sunshine Coast flights mean for Cairns tourism
A LANDMARK arrival of the first Alliance Airlines flight from the Sunshine Coast heralded a new travel era for the two tourist hot spots.
On Sunday afternoon, the first-ever direct flight from Maroochydore to Cairns touched down.
Former Trinity Beach residents Sue and Barry Schmidt took advantage of the new service to return to the Far North for the first time in 20 years.
"Because we can't go overseas and all our rellos are in Melbourne, we thought we would have a change of scenery and said 'let's go to Cairns'," Ms Schmidt said.
"We were going to drive up with the campervan, and tested that out for three days and got to Seventeen Seventy, but when the flights came out at $120 each way, we said 'bugger that, we'll get the plane'."
The new service operates three flights per week between the Sunshine Coast and Cairns and was made possible when Cairns and 15 other Queensland airports shared in a $15m regional aviation package to help kickstart flights following the COVID-19 shutdown.
Ms Schmidt reported the flight was well supported in its inaugural run and took off at about 80 per cent capacity.
Visit Sunshine Coast's Peter Hook said connectivity between the two destinations would enable visitors better access to Queensland's diverse range of east coast experiences.
"We actually see (the route) as a very logical flow down the east coast," he said.
"It really appeals to both the European market, the American and potentially the Asian market.
"It will work both ways. It really highlights just how diverse Queensland is; Cairns and Sunshine Coast are in the same state but offer two very different tourism experiences."
The Alliance Airlines service will have the potential to carry more than 3800 passengers between the two destinations each week.
While in the Far North, Mr and Ms Schmidt will visit Port Douglas, and they also have an outback adventure booked at the Undara Volcanic National Park.
"And we want to check out were we had our apartment at Trinity Beach 20 years ago," Ms Schmidt said.
If the service continued beyond the resumption of international flights, Cairns would be an ideal departure city to Asia, she added.
The first Cairns to Maroochydore flight touched down at the Sunshine Coast on Friday.
BOOST FOR REGIONAL ROUTES
TOURISM Minister Kate Jones said the regional aviation package could support 1500-1600 jobs per year over a three-year period, with each flight tipped to generate up to 50 jobs along the supply chain.
"We know that tourism operators right across the state are hurting due to COVID-19," she said.
"This funding will allow Queenslanders to explore their own state and could pump millions into communities like Cairns that rely on tourism."
Originally published as What Sunshine Coast flights mean for Cairns tourism Boost for regional aviation routes