Virgin Australia has confirmed it will further increase direct services between Perth and the Pilbara town of Karratha in Western Australia as a result of continuing strong demand from the mining and resources industry. This latest growth follows just three months after the carrier revealed previous plans to increase its services on the route and will increase flights to 38 per week.
Karratha is one of the fastest growing mining towns in Australia and Virgin Australia added three weekly return services on the route from Perth from July 1, 2013 using a 98-seat Embraer 190 jet. These flights on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings were in response to customer feedback and the request for additional frequencies, particularly in the morning peaks. The airline will now add a further two weekly afternoon return services on Tuesdays and Fridays from October 22, 2013 using a 110-seat Fokker 100.
“We have seen increased demand for services between Perth and Karratha and we are pleased to provide choice and value for our customers by adding these additional services,” said Merren McArthur, regional airlines group executive, Virgin Australia. “Our base in Western Australia provides us with a strong foundation to meet the needs of regional communities and the resources industry and we will continue to evaluate new growth opportunities across Australia.”
The expansion is part of Virgin Australia’s regional growth strategy, building on its recent acquisition of Skywest Airlines. The newly enhanced regional operation currently has 32 aircraft operating over 800 services per week to 41 different destinations. Its strong West Australian base and focus enables it to quickly identify and respond to growth opportunities in the region, particularly in the high-growth fly-in-fly-out markets such as Karratha.
In 2012 an estimated 739,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between Perth and Karratha, up 25.9 per cent on the previous year. Virgin Australia currently utilises a mix of Boeing 737-800s and E190s on the route but faces strong competition from Qantas which currently offers a average of eight flights a day using its own 737-800s and 717-200s of its partner carrier Cobham Aviation Services Australia under the QantasLink brand.