Karratha new base for Asia- Pilbara flights

Alexander Scott and Jakeb WaddellNorth West Telegraph
Concept of a Pilbara Airlines plane.
Camera IconConcept of a Pilbara Airlines plane. Credit: Pilbara Airlines

A plan to run direct international flights between Port Hedland and Asia has taken a dramatic turn, with the airline behind the proposal announcing it wanted to move the project 240km to Karratha.

It means if and when Pilbara Airlines get the flights off the ground, they will depart from Karratha rather than Port Hedland.

The North West Telegraph reported in March that the company had started taking bookings for return services to Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines, scheduled to begin this month. Seats couldbe purchased only through South Hedland-based agent Grab Travel.

Pilbara Airlines chairman and Port Hedland Chamber of Commerce president Peter Carter told the North West Telegraph in October the service had been delayed and all bookings had been fully refunded.

He said he was still optimistic about the future of direct flights between the Pilbara and Asia and he hoped it would create jobs and “another whole world of industry” for Hedland.

But a statement released by Pilbara Airlines on Friday said the company planned to enter discussions with the City of Karratha to “establish its base and aviation infrastructure” at Karratha Airport.

“Up until now the airline was only considering operating from Port Hedland, all its marketing material shows its head office at Port Hedland International Airport,” the statement said.

Pilbara Airlines general manager Ed Turner said there was “strong commercial reasons” for the airline to consider using Karratha as its primary base. He said the company would not begin operating until late 2020 or early 2021 and the first flight would be to Singapore.

A City of Karratha spokeswoman said the City remained committed to facilitating the provision of international flights to and from Karratha Airport.

“The City is in discussions with various airlines and regulatory authorities regarding potential opportunities for international air services,” she said.

The spokeswoman said the City was pleased to see interest from the private sector and was in discussions with Pilbara Airlines regarding its proposal.

“Council has indicated an interest in supporting the establishment of international services but has made no binding commitments to Pilbara Airlines at this time,” she said.

Pilbara Airlines was formed earlier this year by Perth businessman Khoi Vo and Mr Carter.

The statement said the airline had secured the international/domestic Air Operator’s Certificate permitting it to operate, but the certificate requires variation and approval by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to run the Airbus aircraft.

Mr Turner said the project team was working closely with CASA management to complete this work by early 2020. The company would initially operate with two Airbus A320 planes, which have a capacity of 142 economy and 12 business-class seats.

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