As widely publicised, the final turboprop service operated by Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) in Queensland was flown on Sunday 16 July, bringing to an end an era of ATR 72-500 / 600 services that have operated in the state since October 2011.
However, this is not entirely all true as the airline continues to utilise ATR aircraft on the Brisbane - Moranbah route despite plans to withdraw services to the mining community on the same day of ceasing RPT flights to Bundaberg, Gladstone and Port Macquarie in NSW.
Why Virgin Australia continues to fly to Moranbah is not known, perhaps because a temporary shortage of available resources / aircraft from Alliance Airlines. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how much longer Virgin services the route until Alliance takes over.
As expected, Alliance Airlines commenced RPT operations to Bundaberg, Gladstone and Port Macquarie the following day on Monday 17 July, and expected to predominately utilise 80-seat Fokker 70 jets on the routes. However, it will come as no surprise if the larger 100-seat Fokker 100 is occasionally substituted if passenger numbers are sufficient, particularly during higher demand periods. On the other-hand, when demand is lower, be interesting to see if the smaller Fokker 50 turboprop is occasional sighted.
The new flights to Bundaberg, Gladstone and Port Macquarie (and Moranbah in due time) are operated on behalf of Virgin Australia under a codeshare and wet-lease agreement, identical to the current services operated from Brisbane to Cloncurry, Emerald, Mt Isa and Rockhampton.
Despite increasingly venturing into RPT operations in recent years, mainly due to the decline in the mining sector, a healthy proportion of Alliance Airlines revenue continues to be derived from Fly-In / Fly-Out (FIFO) operations and adhoc charter.
With customers including major mining and energy companies such as BHP Billiton, Newcrest Mining, Citic Pacific, Incitec Pivot, Minerals and Metals Group, Santos and OZ Minerals - it is understandable Alliance Airlines flies workers to some of the largest mining projects in Australia comprising Argyle, Ballera, Cannington, Cloncurry, Groote Eylandt, Lawn Hill, Mt Isa, Nickel West, Olympic Dam, Phosphate Hill, Prominent Hill, Shay Gap, Telfer and The Granites.
Commencing operations in 2002 with an initial fleet of two Fokker 100 and two Embraer EMB120 Brasilia aircraft when Brisbane based Queensland Airline Holdings acquired the assets of Flight West Airlines which had become dormant after the collapse of Ansett Airlines, Alliance Airlines has continued to grow over the years and today maintains a fleet of five Fokker 50's, eleven Fokker 70's and seventeen Fokker 100's.
On a final note, Air Queensland.blogspot would like to sincerely thank Bundaberg planespotter Micah S for helping us compile this post by forwarding these magnificent photo's of Fokker 70 VH-QQY captured during the airline's inaugural RPT service to the rum city on Monday 17 July.
All photos contributed by Micah S