The Melbourne Cup, AFL games, business connections and a range of shopping opportunities have suddenly become closer to Orange with the start of direct flights to Melbourne.
The first Fly Corporate 34-seat Saab plane took off from Orange just after 10am on Monday and took about one hour and 40 minutes to reach Melbourne’s Essendon Airport where a traditional water cannon welcome greeted its arrival.
Fly Corporate’s first flight was nearly fully booked with people heading south for business and pleasure.
Captain Rod Summers and first officer Mark Eigendorp were at the controls of the historic flight while cabin crew member Natalie Arnold handed champagne to the first passengers.
The flights will cost from $259 to $419 one way depending on availability.
Fly Corporate sales manager Geoff Woodham said ticket sales were “positive” for the first few weeks.
“As time goes on it does get better,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t know about it yet.”
The plane was half-full on its return to Orange.
Mr Woodham said the return service with a short turnaround in Melbourne would fly Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but Tuesday services would be added this year.
Orange mayor Cr Reg Kidd said the service added to existing services from Orange to Sydney and Brisbane.
“Regular passengers at Orange Airport have been asking for flights to Melbourne for a long time,” he said.
“The take-up of daily air connections to another state capital is a good indication of how many businesses in Orange are already operating as part of national markets.”
Deputy mayor Cr Joanne McRae said it would benefit a wide range of Orange people and boost our tourism.
“I think its fantastic to see Orange connected with another national capital.
“Melbourne is one of the most liveable cities in Australia.”
She said Newcrest Mining had its head office in Melbourne and it would encourage people from Melbourne to come to Orange to taste our wine and food.
Cr McRae said it would also provide connections for Charles Sturt University to link with courses and expertise, particularly in dentistry and physiotherapy.
IT’S A THUMBS UP FROM BUSINESS TRAVELLERS
Orange workers who caught the first flight to Melbourne say the new service should be good for business.
Robert Biviano took the flight to Melbourne for a solar industry conference.
“It was a good flight,” he said.
“I had some business in Melbourne.”
Previously he has had to drive to Melbourne for work conferences.
“It’s a bit quicker and it saved me a lot of time,” he said on arrival in Melbourne.
Mr Biviano said he would catch a return flight on Thursday.
Nick Debere of Millthorpe said he travelled to Melbourne regularly and would be looking to use the direct flight in future.
He said he normally flew via Sydney.
“I come down every few weeks,” he said.
“The time saved from having to go to Sydney is very good.
“I hope it does last.”
Essendon Airport chief executive officer Chris Cowan said the facility provided a handy link for business people and other travellers coming to Melbourne from Orange.
“Orange passengers will enjoy the benefits of arriving at Essendon Airport especially the time savings, lack of congestion and the popular retail amenities on site,” he said.
“Fly Corporate is the fifth regional airline to choose Essendon as its Melbourne base mostly through word of mouth which is very encouraging.”
The flight from Orange to Essendon takes one hour and 45 minutes.
SO, WHERE IS ESSENDON?
Essendon Airport is closer to Melbourne than Orange Airport is to Orange – but the travel times are opposite.
With direct flights from Orange landing at Essendon passengers have a variety of methods of travel.
It is about 10km from the Melbourne CBD, much closer than the main Melbourne Airport at Tullamarine.
Essendon Airport CEO Chris Cowan said there was a free shuttle bus to Melbourne Airport for people transferring to other flights.
He said the easiest way to get to the city was by cab which cost about $45.
There is also a tram stop nearby where trams running every 20 minutes took 40 minutes to the city.
The nearest train station is a distance away and Mr Cowan said they would look at having a shuttle bus.
You need a Myki card to use public transport but they are not for sale at the airport.