The operators of a new commercial airport under construction near Toowoomba remain hopeful Qantas will service the Darling Downs city, despite this week's announcement of route and staff cuts.
The $100 million-plus Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, west of Toowoomba, is expected to be completed sometime in September or October this year.
But Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce's announcement that the airline was looking to scale down its regional routes could have been a case of terrible timing for the privately funded public airport.
Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport general manager Phil Gregory said they were watching the Qantas situation with interest.
“In some ways, we think there's actually an opportunity for us and an opportunity for (Qantas) to open up some new routes or relocate some unprofitable routes,” he said.
“(Qantas could) maybe free up some aircraft for a profitable route, which Wellcamp will be.”
Mr Gregory said he still expected to see the flying kangaroo aircraft livery at Toowoomba once the airport was open for business.
“I'm reasonably confident, in fact I'd go as far as to say I'm very confident, I think it stacks up for them like it stacks up for us,” he said.
“We've been talking to them on a weekly basis, but we've left them alone this week for obvious reasons, but we'll be talking to them in the next fortnight when the dust settles.”
A Qantas spokeswoman said discussions were still underway with Brisbane West Wellcamp, but no decisions had been made.
But Mr Gregory said the burgeoning airport had a strong business case to offer airlines.
“Every box you look at is ticked. It stacks up – we've got the mining boom to the west of us, something like $6 billion worth of infrastructure going into the Surat Basin,” he said.
“The Abbott government's just announced the Toowoomba bypass, a $1.6 billion bit of road infrastructure – the biggest single piece of road infrastructure in regional Australia's history – and it goes straight past our front door.
“…We've got this massive catchment – the 11th-biggest catchment – so in theory we should be the 11th-biggest airport (in Australia) one day.”
Mr Gregory said he expected announcements on tenant airlines to be made by the end of next month.
“The airlines would want to be advertising six months before we're opened and we'll be running our advertising campaign, so realistically we'd like to have something locked in six months beforehand,” he said.
A Virgin Australia spokesman said the airline was interested in what Brisbane West Wellcamp could offer and was in continual negotiations with the Wagners-backed airport.
“We have not made any decision as yet,” the spokesman said.