SOUTH-WEST leaders have welcomed a rescue deal that guarantees Jetstar will continue to use Avalon airport for at least another 18 months.
They have suggested better flight scheduling to encourage more regional residents to use the facility, rather than driving the extra distance to Tullamarine.
The state government yesterday committed $5.5 million of taxpayers’ money to help Jetstar Airways offset losses at Avalon while airport owner Linfox and Jetstar will both contribute $2.75m each.
Warrnambool’s mayor Michael Neoh welcomed the continuation of passenger services and hoped it would help secure freight operations for south-west exports.
“This is probably the wedge in the door to make sure Avalon is sustainable,” he said. “We need air freight for our dairy products and meat. Food production is our region’s key — it’s our future.”
Commerce Warrnambool chairman Richard Mont-gomery said Avalon had obvious logistical benefits for the south-west tourism industry. He said better flight timetables would help encourage more people to use the service for holidays and business trips.
“I think the demand is there, but I’m not sure it always translates to seats because of the scheduling,” Mr Montgomery said.
Warrnambool City Council tourism services manager Peter Abbott encouraged south-west residents to use the airport as much as possible.
“You’d hope that with a critical mass it would improve the chances of other services opening,” he said.
“Avalon is an important gateway to the south-west. Hopefully in the future there would be more domestic flights to other cities and even international routes.”