ON FIRM GROUND: Passenger lists are soaring with Ballinas Virgin Blue team of (from left) David Dalziel, Ian Hawker, Peter Jac
ON FIRM GROUND: Passenger lists are soaring with Ballinas Virgin Blue team of (from left) David Dalziel, Ian Hawker, Peter Jac

Airline travel is taking off

By Charles Wood

AIRLINES operating to and from the Northern Rivers are flying high.

And the future is looking up for local air travellers as well.

REX yesterday confirmed it will meet Lismore City Council on Friday to discuss the introduction of a new Brisbane service.

The regional airline this month notched up five years service into Lismore after initially carrying 28,000 passengers into the city in its first year. Passenger figures since then have more than doubled.

In 2002 REX offered three Sydney services, stopping at Lismore and Ballina each day. Its schedule now caters for four non-stop weekday return flights.

According to REX regional manager Maurise Gahan, council landing tax concessions have allowed REX to operate cheap and convenient flights predominately to business commuters.

And business is also booming at Ballina-Byron Airport, with Ballina Shire Council figures showing 320,000 passengers used its facilities last financial year and it is growing by more than 50,000 a year. If current growth continues council will eventually be required to introduce a control tower and a fire service.

Virgin Blue this week celebrates its third year of flying into Ballina.

Its ground staff is contracted to a company called North West Travel. They celebrated with a birthday bash at the Bellowing Bull Restaurant on Monday, hosted by their boss Stuart Richardson, who now lives in Tasmania operating out of Devonport Airport after spending 10 years in the Lismore and Ballina travel industry.

Employing 18 people, four check-in staff and five on the tarmac turn a daily flight around in just 30 minutes.

Stuart said passenger loads out of Ballina were increasing year after year.



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