Flights between Griffith and Melbourne will take off in less than three weeks after the national safety authority gave Par Avion the all clear.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) staff gave the Tasmanian airline approval to fly the route following an inspection of Griffith airport on Wednesday afternoon.
Par Avion has already begun advertising a discounted introductory offer on its website, partially subsidised by council’s decision to waive landing fees for the first 12 months.
Par Avion managing director Shannon Wells confirmed the first flight will leave Griffith bound for Essendon airport on March 17.
“As expected we got approved on Wednesday and now it’s just a matter of advertising to get as many bums on seats as we can,” Mr Wells said.
“Initially we will be operating three days per week with two return services per day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday but we will increase that when demand increases.
"It’s been a fairly long process over a few months, now we want to see how the public reacts to it and we’re hoping it’s successful.”
The introductory fare of $169 one-way will run until May 1 when prices will increase to $199 for a saver fare and $279 for a fully flexible fare.
Mayor John Dal Broi was “extremely relieved” locals would have access to Melbourne by air.
“We’ve waived the landing fees, which will save the airline between $35,000 and $40,000 in the first year, but they have committed to passing that saving directly on to the passengers,” Cr Dal Broi said.
“This is great news for business, health and even footy fans who haven’t been able to fly to Melbourne for nearly two years.
“Of all the issues facing council this one has had locals talking the most, even my wife goes to town with her friends and people ask her when flights to Melbourne start – I’m glad we can give everyone a firm answer now.” Cr Dal Broi has written to Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss urging the government to further ease the cost of a ticket by honouring his pre-election promise to boost regional aviation.
Griffith Can Assist president Olga Forner has spoken to a number of cancer patients who were thrilled with the announcement.
“One of Australia’s major cancer treatment clinics – the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre – is in Melbourne and a lot of locals would prefer to attend it rather than go to Sydney,” Mrs Forner said.
“I spoke to one cancer patient who said an airline would give her the flexibility to travel to Melbourne and back in a day.
“It means she wouldn’t have to pay for accommodation, if you’re a working person it means only one day off, not two or three ...”