FOOTBALL SPECIAL: Alliance Airlines will fly Cowboys fans from Gladstone to Townsville in April.
FOOTBALL SPECIAL: Alliance Airlines will fly Cowboys fans from Gladstone to Townsville in April. Paul Braven GLA170717ALLIANCE

'Big commitment': Townsville deal to 'test the water'

DIRECT flights between Gladstone and the Gold Coast may not be on the radar yet but the Gladstone Airport has set its sights sky-high with a new initiative.

Alliance Airlines will fly Gladstone's rugby league fanatics to Townsville in April.

The return flights are part of a package deal for the Townsville Cowboys and Melbourne Storm match at 1300Smiles Stadium on April 12.

They are the first since flights north from Gladstone were dropped in 2014.

Gladstone Airport chief executive officer Colin Fort said the deal was a way to "test the water” for interest in northern Queensland flights and special deals for sporting events.

He said if the deal was popular there was potential for the airport to consider offering similar packages later in the year.

"We started talking to Alliance Airlines last year about opportunities to explore a northern flight route,” Mr Fort said.

"Naturally this is a big commitment.

"And costs a lot of money to trial flying to a northern destination like Mackay, Townsville or Cairns.

"If this package sells well we could look into running another one later in the season - possibly the Cowboys v Broncos game in August.”

The deal includes two nights accommodation in Townsville, return flights, grandstand tickets and Cowboys merchandise.

The news follows recent social media rumours of a Gladstone-Gold Coast flight.

Mr Fort said this was not true.

Alliance Airlines confirmed the route was not on its radar.

"If there was a new direct flight option out of Gladstone we will certainly be celebrating that and telling everyone about it,” Mr Fort said.

Meanwhile Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett said he remained hopeful of an airport assets co-ownership deal with other councils.

Regional Queensland councils have been in talks since 2016 about an arrangement, which would see councils merge airport assets.

Cr Burnett said Gladstone and Emerald councils want the deal to go ahead.

But he said it would not be beneficial unless more councils signed up.

"The idea is that if we have places like the Whitsundays and Emerald we're diversifying the risk,” Cr Burnett said.

"Gladstone (Airport) does well at certain times of the year because of our industry, and Whitsundays does well in other times because of its tourism.

"The idea is we can work together and we'll be stronger.”

Cr Burnett said he believed a deal would help councils negotiate with airlines for new routes such as Gladstone to Rockhampton to Townsville.

Mr Fort said the Gladstone Airport was keen to support tourism growth by exploring possible routes to and from Gladstone.

"We can help support that growth by providing the airlines with information about what travellers through the airport would like to see offered when that information becomes available to us,” he said.

"Ultimately decisions regarding flight routes are made by the airlines.”



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