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Bendigo will be connected to Sydney with regular flights operated by Qantas starting early next year, marking the first regular commercial airline services out of the Victorian city in more than three decades.
Qantas announced on Monday it would operate return flights six days a week from the historic gold-rush town, increasing to daily flights during the peak summer period, using QantasLink's 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turboprop aircraft.
QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said the new service, to start on March 31, was in response to demand from local businesses that needed an easier way to get to Sydney, and was made possible by recent upgrades to Bendigo Airport.
“No airline has ever offered regular passenger flights between Bendigo and Sydney– so these flights are a win for both travellers and tourism," Mr Gissing said.
"Direct flights will offer a more convenient way to do business in Sydney, saving travellers around four hours driving time on a round trip instead of flying via Melbourne."
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said the route would boost tourism and business opportunities, and estimated it would attract nearly 15,000 visitors to Victoria's fourth-largest city a year.
"That’s great news for local cafes, motels, restaurants and the Bendigo economy,” he said.
The state government tipped in $4.7 million from its Regional Aviation Fund and the City of Greater Bendigo contributed $5 million to recent upgrades to Bendigo Airport, which included a new hangar and runway.
Like most regional airports, Bendigo's is owned and operated by the local council.
QantasLink, the airline's regional arm, already flies to 56 destination around Australia, including Melbourne and Mildura, while Qantas' budget arm Jetstar also flies out of Avalon, near Geelong.
The service will operate morning flights from Bendigo to Sydney from Monday to Saturday, and afternoon flights from Sydney to Bendigo from Sunday to Friday.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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