Airlines to fill void left by Cathay Pacific
AIR Niugini and Qantas have come to the rescue of travellers and exporters desperately needing a service from Cairns to Hong Kong when Cathay Pacific ends its route in nine days.
The PNG-based airline will provide twice-a-week passenger flights via Port Moresby while Qantas will offer a weekly freightservice direct to Hong Kong from November 10.
The passenger services start on October 30, three days after Cathay Pacific ends its 25-year relationship with Cairns on October 27.
They will be provided on Wednesday and Sunday, using a Boeing 767 from Cairns to Port Moresby, instead of a Fokker 100.
The flights are initially for six months while the airlines, the Queensland Government and other stakeholders undertake ongoing reviews.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the government had partnered with the airlines to deliver the Cairns-Hong Kong route.
Ms Jones said the six-month contract followed an extensive expression of interest and industry consultation process.
"(Member for Cairns) Michael Healy has been calling me constantly to make sure we secure new flights to Cairns to make up for the shock withdrawal of Cathay Pacific," she said.
Mr Healy said of the six expressions of interest lodged with the government, proposals for a Qantas freighter once a week and an Air Niugini twice-a-week service best met the needs of local exporters to maintain immediate access to lucrative Asian markets.
"The Air Niugini service also provides opportunities to build tourism visitation on the wide-bodied passenger service from Hong Kong to Cairns via Port Moresby," he said.
Mr Healy said it was estimated that more than $75 million worth of export product and about 180 supply chain jobs could have been put at risk from the axing of the Cairns to Hong Kong route.
Air Niugini managing director Alan Milne said he was delighted his airline could help.
"We know this is a significant service for the people of Far North Queensland and it's now a significant service for Air Niugini as we continue to grow our airline and continue to explore new opportunities," he said.
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said it was a welcome outcome for our region.
" … and importantly secures the ongoing viability of a number of high value industries, including live export of coral trout, crayfish and aquarium fish, and their access to key Asian markets," he said.
Cairns Airport chief executive Norris Carter said the airport was confident that "together we could find a solution to ensure the seamless transition of freight services from the region. The airport remains committed to working to grow services for our community."