MORE seats have been offered on the Portland and Hamilton air passenger services to Melbourne as part of a trial by regional airliner Sharp Airlines.
The route structure of the Portland/Hamilton to Essendon Airport service has been altered to ensure passengers from both regional centres experience the same amount of flight time.
Sharp Airlines chief executive Dallas Hay said the four-month trial also sought to reduce the number of bus transfers and delays caused by fog at Hamilton Airport.
A 7am check-in will now be imposed on Hamilton passengers to avoid fog-related delays.
“It’s a trial period so there’ll be some finer-tuning but we want to see how our customers respond to these changes,” Mr Hay said.
“Fog has been a perennial problem at Hamilton Airport, so we hope a change to scheduling will allow for less flight delays and improve the service for passengers.
“Numbers using the service have remained constant but there’s certainly plenty of people, in Portland for example, who commute regularly to Melbourne but prefer to avoid the five-hour trip by car.”
As part of the trial, all flights departing Hamilton will travel via Portland and all flights departing Essendon Airport will travel via Hamilton.
The airline is also undertaking a review of engineering requirements and facilities at the Portland airport.
Mr Hay said the alterations were made following customer feedback, a review of market trends and an overall aim to improve on-time performance.
“The whole idea is to share stopovers equally so both Portland and Hamilton return passengers experience the same amount of flying time,” Mr Hay said.
A return trip from either Portland or Hamilton to Essendon Airport costs roughly $360, although promotional prices are lower than this figure. A one-way ticket from the Western District to Melbourne or vice-versa costs approximately $180 but prices do vary.