Qantas is expanding its discounted fares programme for passengers in regional and remote towns across Australia.

The carrier is investing up to $10 million each year in providing flight discounts for residents in 16 towns across Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Currently the airline provides residents flying between their home town and the nearest capital city with discounts of at least 20-30% and these discounts will remain. Now however bigger discounts will apply to fares booked during busy periods and at the last minute, so the maximum residents will pay will be approximately $400 per sector when booking return journeys (approximately $800 return).

The discounted fares programme applies in select regional towns where, Qantas said, “residents compete with a very high proportion of corporate travel or are impacted by their remoteness.”

The initial rollout of the expansion is to happen immediately in Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall, Karratha and Kalgoorlie. The regional airports and councils in these towns have committed to reducing the fees they charge passengers, which are built into airfares.

Qantas is also consulting with local airports and councils in other towns in the programme: Moranbah, Roma, Charleville, Broome, Port Hedland, Newman, Paraburdoo, Alice Springs and Yulara (Ayers Rock) and said it is “calling on these regional airports and councils to implement similar fee reductions for residents.”

Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the carrier was responding to residents feedback in regional Australia about more affordable air travel. He said feedback has come from visits to regional communities, and listening to concerns raised through a recent Senate Inquiry into regional airfares.

“The existing discount program is proving to be extremely popular but some residents have told us that when they need to travel during peak travel periods or at the last minute, for things like funerals or urgent medical appointments, they end up booking our highest fares and paying more or they don’t travel. That’s why we are introducing bigger discounts to these bookings,” he said. “There are some fundamental realities about the costs of operating regional services that we can’t change, particularly to remote parts of the country, but we are making this commitment and investment to assist residents in these towns.”

The City of Karratha celebrated the news it would be one of the first destinations in regional Australia to benefit from the discounted fares programme, “thanks to lobbying by the council” it said in a statement.

“Council understands that access to affordable airfares is important to the community to visit family and friends at short notice, such as for funerals and attend medical appointments,” said City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long. “Qantas capping the maximum fare for residents to fly to Perth during peak travel periods and at short notice is a great outcome for the community and a direct result of Council’s ongoing advocacy in this space.

“This agreement has been two years in the making and we are pleased to have worked with Qantas to further enhance the liveability of the City of Karratha,” he continued, adding, “Council has been working hard to facilitate the provision of more travel options for our community and will waive airport landing fees as part of the agreement.”

“We remain committed to growing travel options from Karratha Airport and hope these cheaper flights and our new inter-regional flights network between the Pilbara and Kimberley will benefit residents,” he concluded.

Regional Gateway’s Kimberley Young summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.

Airports in the UK are gearing up for the busy bank holiday weekend, expected to be the busiest weekend of the year for many airports, as Brits make the most of a last long weekend before the end of the summer and the return of school in September.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport expects to see almost 70,000 passengers pass through its halls between Friday and Monday. It anticipates it will likely be one of the busiest August bank holidays in recent years, with the airport’s head of PR, Robin Tudor, suggesting “poor UK summer weather” this year may lead many of the region’s passengers to consider a summer escape, “making the August Bank Holiday a very busy period for the airport once again.”

Manchester Airport too is gearing up for the weekend, as it expects Friday 23 August to be the busiest day in its 81-year history with more than 115,000 passengers expected to arrive and depart. In total, around 430,000 passengers are expected to travel during the bank holiday weekend at the airport.

Also anticipating a record year, Bristol Airport is expecting to see more than 125,000 passengers use the airport between the Friday and Monday, an increase of 4% in passenger growth compared to the same period last year.

Outside of the bank holiday buzz, low-cost airline FlyArystan has revealed its plans to open a base in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, while both Guernsey Airport in the Channel Islands, and Dunedin Airport in New Zealand are introducing new security screening equipment – with the former planning to invest more than £1.5 million in the technology to resolve delays in security.

Meanwhile, plans have been submitted to develop a sustainable fuels plant in the UK, turning household and commercial solid waste into sustainable jet fuels.

Altalto Immingham, a subsidiary of Velocys and a collaboration with British Airways and Shell, has submitted a planning application for the plant which would take over half a million tonnes each year of non-recyclable everyday waste and convert it to sustainable fuels.

Improving access to sustainable aviation fuels is crucial to counteracting the impact of aviation on the environment, meeting our carbon neutral goals and ensuring the sustainable growth of the industry.

Currently, the costs and availability of sustainable jet fuels can present a barrier to its uptake, but as more stakeholders invest in the process, we could see those barriers lower.

So, as airports in the UK prepare for the busy weekend ahead, it’s encouraging to think that we could be seeing greener flights in our blue skies in the future.

Image: Manchester Airport

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Altalto Immingham Limited, a subsidiary of Velocys and a collaboration with British Airways and Shell, has submitted a planning application to develop what the company says is expected to be Europe’s first commercial-scale household and solid waste to sustainable fuels plant.

The plant is planned to be developed in North East Lincolnshire, at a site near Immingham and close to the Humber Estuary. The plant would take over half a million tonnes each year of non-recyclable everyday waste – otherwise destined for landfill or incineration – and convert it into cleaner burning sustainable aviation fuel and road fuel.

Velocys Oklahoma plant

The technology, integrated by Velocys, enables a net 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for each tonne of sustainable jet fuel that displaces a tonne of conventional fuel. The company says the greenhouse gas reductions achieved from the plant’s annual output are equivalent to up to 40,000 standard size petrol engine cars.

The fuel is also expected to improve air quality, with up to 90% reduction in particulate matter (or soot) from aircraft engine exhausts and almost 100% reduction in sulphur oxides; and the technology offers a lower emissions route to process UK waste than incineration or landfill.

“Velocys has a solution to decarbonise aviation fuel by converting an unwanted feedstock – household and commercial solid waste – to create a highly valuable product: sustainable transport fuels,” explained Henrik Warebon, CEO at Velocys. “This will cut greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, as well as improving air quality and helping to tackle our waste problem.”

Neville Hargreaves, vice-president, Waste to Fuels at Velocys told Regional Gateway: “The Altalto project will improve the UK’s fuel supply and resilience given the UK currently imports 70%+ of its jet fuel from abroad.

“Plants like this will give regional airports the opportunity to improve both the sustainability and the resilience of their supply.”

The partnership forms part of British Airways’ goal to develop long-term sustainable fuel options and the airline intends to purchase jet fuel produced at the plant for use in its aircraft. Alex Cruz, British Airways chairman and CEO said this marked a “major milestone” in the project, and called sustainable fuels “a game changer for aviation.”

He continued: “This development is an important step in the reduction of our carbon emissions and meeting the industry targets of carbon neutral growth from 2020, and a 50% in CO2 reduction by 2050 from 2005 levels. It also brings the UK another step closer to becoming a global leader in sustainable aviation fuels.”

The development is anticipated to bring hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, hundreds of jobs during construction, and approximately 130 permanent jobs to the region.

On the supply side, Velocys’ Hargreaves told Regional Gateway, “This is expected to be the first waste to jet fuel plant in Europe, and Velocys intends that this will be the first of many similar plants; once Velocys have set the blueprint, it becomes easier to follow. There is a large volume of waste available, and this is one of the least carbon-intensive ways of dealing with it.”

Calls for co-ordination

The International Airlines Group (IAG), parent company of British Airways, also called for the government to provide “the co-ordination necessary to progress development in the technology and improve fuel supply and resilience.”

Jonathon Counsell, head of sustainability at IAG said: “We strongly welcomed the inclusion of sustainable aviation fuels into the renewable transport fuels policy framework and call on Government to continue to provide support given the significant near-term opportunities offered by these fuels.

“Specifically, we strongly believe a dedicated Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (OSAF) will provide the essential cross-government co-ordination necessary to progress the development and commercial deployment of sustainable aviation fuel and would welcome Government support in setting this up at the earliest opportunity.”

Images: Velocys Oklahoma plant

Veovo has announced the appointment of a new CEO with James Williamson taking on the role as the company aims to expand its reach.

As the company builds on its recent growth, Veovo has appointed Williamson as the new chief executive officer, aiming to accelerate the company’s development of broader capabilities and extend its global reach.

Williamson brings a track record of leading and implementing organisational strategies to scale and deliver customer outcomes in the aviation sector. Previously at Leidos, Williamson was managing director of the international aviation division, developing strong relationships with airport operations and Air Navigation Service providers.

Prior to Leidos he spent over a decade in the defence and aerospace technology sector, taking on senior leadership roles with Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica).

“I’m convinced that Veovo is one of a tiny number of technology providers in the airport space, who can deliver a major part of the “Total Airport Management” concept,” said James Williamson. “Veovo’s vision and ambition to tackle the critical industry challenges head-on are the ingredients for becoming a significant player in the industry and driving future growth.”

He continues: “Veovo’s customer list is a “who’s who” of high profile customers known for their innovative approaches to improving airport operations and the passenger experience. These customers have high expectations, and despite this, Veovo has an unparalleled reputation for successful solution delivery.

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with our customers, partners and incredibly talented staff to develop a unique proposition to aid airports in tackling these critical industry challenges”