Toowoomba airport eyes international flights

Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport which is in the final stages of development near Toowoomba.
Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport which is in the final stages of development near Toowoomba.  Photo: Glenn Hunt

Toowoomba could be Queensland's next international gateway, if the owners of Australia's only privately built public airport have their way.

QantasLink announced daily Sydney-Toowoomba services on Wednesday, offering an introductory one-way price of $99 as a carrot to would-be passengers.

The first flights in and out of Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, about 17 kilometres west of Toowoomba, were scheduled to begin on November 17 this year.

Wagners chairman John Wagner and QantasLink CEO John Gissing look at a model of the new Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport.
Wagners chairman John Wagner and QantasLink CEO John Gissing look at a model of the new Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport. Photo: Glenn Hunt

But Brisbane West Wellcamp general manager Phil Gregory had his eyes set further afield.

He said there was no reason international flights could not one day come into Toowoomba.

During a Fairfax Media tour of the airport's terminal, Mr Gregory said international services to Asia and the Pacific were a possibility.

"During the ski season, you could imagine a lot of people wanting to head to New Zealand," he said.

Mr Gregory said minor alterations would have to be made to allow for international services in the Darling Downs.

One of the departure gates would have to be quarantined from the rest of the terminal, in a similar fashion to Adelaide's international departure lounge, should that international demand ever exist.

While discussions had been held with Virgin Australia about possible domestic services, QantasLink chief executive John Gissing hinted the "flying kangaroo" may yet offer more routes in addition to the announced Sydney services.

And aircraft such as the Boeing 737, or possibly even larger jet aircraft, could end up joining the turboprop Bombadier Q400 Dash-8s on the Toowoomba tarmac.

"We'll start with our fantastic Q400 aircraft, our 74-seater, and we believe we've got the just the right product," Mr Gissing said.

"We're putting 85,000 seats annually into the market initially and we'll see how things go.

"We're very excited about that as a start and we'll look to grow that where we can in the future."

Brisbane West Wellcamp is being built by the local family-owned Wagners company, with chairman John Wagner estimating the cost to his family to be "closer to $200 million than $100 million" during Wednesday's Qantas announcement.

Prior to the first passenger flights, Mr Gregory said Wagners was hard at work getting passenger facilities up to scratch.

Four car hire companies – Budget, Avis, Hertz and Eurocar – had signed lease agreements with Brisbane West Wellcamp, Mr Gregory said, and there was space for a yet-to-be-confirmed café tenant.

Brisbane West Wellcamp will start operations without a control tower, but Mr Wagner's prediction of 1 million annual passengers within the first few years of operation come true, Mr Gregory said that would have to be revisited.

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