Direct flights are set to link Melbourne to the Kimberley.
The East Kimberley Marketing Group, with the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley and Alliance Airlines, confirmed that the long-awaited direct flights will commence in May 2020, creating a valuable new Western Australian link into one of Australia’s most iconic tourism destinations.
The trial air service will include three return flights per week from Melbourne to Kununurra, the gateway to the Kimberley region, providing east-coast travellers with a direct and affordable opportunity to experience the wonders of the stunning Kimberley region without the inconvenience of multiple lengthy connections.
The flights, scheduled to operate during the tourism season from May to August 2020, opens up access to the World Heritage listed Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle), El Questro Wilderness Park, Lake Argyle, the Gibb River Road and the northern-Kimberley coast as well as iconic events such as the Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster.
The service will utilise Alliance Airlines’ Fokker 70 aircraft, seating 80 passengers, and will be operated on a code-share arrangement with Virgin Australia, allowing passengers to connect through to other ports on the same ticket. Tickets will be available through the Virgin Australia website and will go on sale in the coming weeks.
The direct flights, that will be about four hours in duration, will also improve travel options for local residents, reducing barriers to connectivity and improving the liveability of the region.
The East Kimberley Marketing Group recognised the need for improved connectivity to the region in a study conducted in 2016.
Michael McConachy, Chair of the East Kimberley Marketing Group, said that it was rewarding to see the direct flight service become a reality.
“The air service has been made possible through the continued and collaborative efforts of all of the key stakeholders, including local and state government, and the local tourism and business community, and it will be a game-changer for our region,” Mr McConachy said.
“The Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley is to be commended on their bold and progressive support of the direct air service.”
The air service will be underwritten by the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley, the Kununurra tourism and business industry and the Department of Regional Development.
David Menzel, Shire President of the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley, said it was clear that there continues to be significant and united community support for this service.
“The new air service will play a key role in attracting more tourists to the East Kimberley, driving economic growth to the region. It’s also expected to increase and create new business opportunities.”
The air service trial supports the Council’s other key strategies of improved connectivity to the region and the lengthening of the runway in Kununurra.
Tourism Western Australia has committed $250,000 towards a targeted marketing campaign which will showcase the Kimberley region to east-coast travellers.
The Melbourne to Kununurra air service has been further supported by major tour and cruise operator, APT, who have committed to the pre-purchase of a substantial number of the available seats, providing greater access to their guests.
The Kimberley, known for its remote location and untouched wild and rugged landscapes, has traditionally been a bucket-list destination for travellers around the world.
It is expected that direct flights between Melbourne and Kununurra will commence prior to must-attend event, the 20th annual Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster which was created 19 years ago to kick-off the tourist season in the region.