Virgin cancels Busselton trial

Rebecca Parish, BUSSELTON DUNSBOROUGH TIMES
Virgin cancels Busselton route

The final passenger transfer flight from Perth to Busselton will run next week, with stakeholders declaring the weekly flights unviable.

The Wednesday service run by Virgin Australia was drawing low passenger numbers, according to a spokesman for the company, who said people with future bookings on the service were being notified of the changes.

The decision has not surprised Busselton Chamber of Commerce president Ray McMillan who told the Times it also didn't worry him.

"I think it was one of those trial things and they obviously trialled it and it wasn't working," he said.

"Why it started in the first place, I'm not quite sure."

Mr McMillan said commercial flights between Perth and Busselton were probably not part of the "overall business model" for the airport, with the focus on regular flights from Sydney or Melbourne and hopefully international flights as well.

The flight, which was also utilised by Rio Tinto to ferry staff, will have broader implications on fly-in, fly-out staff living locally with the company now making other arrangements for employees who used the flight.

City of Busselton chief executive Mike Archer wouldn't comment on how much the City would save from the cancellation of services - which would no longer require the City to pay for associated screening costs - but he said given that the City and Rio Tinto were subsiding associated security screening, the City would see some "short-term savings".

Mr Archer said the obvious goal was, however, to increase air traffic in and out of Busselton and said even a "small decline" in scheduled flights was disappointing.

Mr Archer added some "belt tightening" was necessary given the current state of the WA economy.

"Regardless of short-term fluctuations in the demand for air services into the region, the City remains focused on the long-term picture," he said.

"The expansion of the airport to accommodate interstate and some Asian destinations is a strategic priority we are committed to pursuing."

The flight cancellation will have no impact on tourism, according to Augusta-Margaret River Tourism Association chief executive Pip Close, who is due to become the head of the Busselton-Margaret River Tourism Association when it comes into effect mid-year.

She said there would also be little impact on the MRBTA's future goals, with the flight largely booked by mining staff for transfers to Perth.

South West Development Commission chief executive Don Punch declined to comment.