Direct flights launched between Melbourne and WA’s Margaret River tourism and wine region

After eight false starts and years of waiting, the first direct flight from Melbourne to WA’s Margaret River food and wine tourism region has arrived.

The sold-out Jetstar flight, with 186 people onboard, left Melbourne and touched down at the Busselton Margaret River airport on Wednesday.

While the route had been discussed for almost a decade, an airline carrier was only confirmed in 2019, and then plans to launch were scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new flights are scheduled three times a week and will continue in a trial of the route over the next three years.

Jetstar chief executive Gareth Evans said he expected the flights to continue beyond that time.

“This is very much a permanent route,” he said.

A gray plane on a runway with passengers disembarking down stairs.
Passengers disembarking from the first direct flight from Melbourne to Perth. (Supplied: South West Development Commission)

Wheatbelt residents Martin John Ranis and Blanche Gucor were among those on the first flight.

Mr Ranis said the new flight was a good option for people from regional WA.

Another passenger, Natasha Kelly from Newcastle in NSW, said she hadn’t seen some of her closest relatives in the South West for two years and this flight route would make it much easier for all of them to visit each other.

Three women, a young boy and girl, all embrace each other and smile at the arrivals terminal. Three women, a young boy and girl, all embrace each other and smile at the arrivals terminal.
NSW resident Natasha Kelly says the direct flights will make easier for families to see each other.(ABC South West WA: Dinushi Dias )

“It’s actually easier than going from Sydney to Perth then Perth to Busselton,” Ms Kelly said.

“The flight was really good. I’ve been trying to get over here for a while.”

‘Upgrade shouldn’t wait’

The new service follows major upgrades to the Busselton Margaret River Airport, jointly funded by the state and federal governments and the City of Busselton.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said additional funding would depend on the success of the new route.

a woman speaking at a microphonea woman speaking at a microphone
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan says further funding to upgrade Busselton airport will depend on the success of the new route.(ABC South West WA: Dinushi Dias )

She said $47 million had already been spent on the airport and attracting a carrier.

Liberal member for Vasse Libby Mettam said the state government should proceed with funding the expansion of the Busselton airport’s terminal capacity instead of waiting for another 12 months.

Woman smiles at camera inside airport terminal.Woman smiles at camera inside airport terminal.
Libby Mettam says this flight route has every chance to succeed.(ABC South West WA: Dinushi Dias )

“This is a game-changer project for the region,” Ms Mettam said.

“We know it is an ambitious project [but] we need to properly invest in these important routes through marketing and suitable infrastructure.

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