Nonstop flights between Melbourne and Kununurra in Western Australia will begin in May 2020 with the launch of a trial service operated by Alliance Airlines under a codeshare arrangement with Virgin Australia.
The announcement of the new service was made jointly by The East Kimberley Marketing Group, a collaboration of regional tourism operators formed five years ago, along with the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley and Alliance Airlines, on May 27.
Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley president David Menzel said the initiative was expected to boost business opportunities in the region, with local tourism operators keen to capitalise on the “bucket list” status of the Kimberley.
“The new air service will play a key role in attracting more tourists to the East Kimberley, driving economic growth to the region,” Menzel said in a statement.
The nonstop flights have been scheduled to operated between May and August, with Alliance to use Fokker 70 equipment capable of carrying 80 passengers for the four-hour, 1,565nm journey between Melbourne Tullamarine and East Kimberley Regional Airport.
Ticket sales were expected to begin in a few weeks.
Western Australia would provide $250,000 to support a marketing campaign designed to attract tourists from the Australia’s to the East Kimberley. Cruise operator APT was also backing the new service with the pre-purchase of seats for their own customers.
The announcement indicated flights would begin ahead of the high-profile annual Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster, a week-long rolling series of events from rodeos, stand-up comedy and speedway races to yoga cruises, painting workshops and indigenous storytelling. The recently concluded 2019 muster was held from 17-26 May.
The trial of the service was in line with the shire council’s strategic focus on improved connectivity to the region, including upgrading the airport.
Kununurra’s East Kimberley Regional Airport was subject to a major refurbishment and expansion completed in 2012 and more recently benefited from a $5.1 million upgrade completed in 2016 to strengthen the runway and correct deterioration and pavement deformities.
A 20-year master plan published by the Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley in 2017 included in its objectives an expansion of the existing runway from its current 1,829 metres x 30 metres runway to 2,430 metres x 45 metres.
Currently, East Kimberley Regional Airport has regular public transport flights from Airnorth (Broome and Darwin, as well as seasonal flights to Perth), Aviair (Balgo, Halls Creek, Kalumburu) and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (Perth).