19.4 C
Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Qantas flies back into Ballina, with bells on

Latest News

Bluesfest announces October dates for 2021 festival

After two disappointing cancelations of their event, Bluesfest has announced that they will hold the 2021 festival over the...

Other News

Locals question placing homes in areas of inundation risk

It is where the community fought off Club Med and it is once again in the spotlight as the current owners, Elements, are seeking to have the zoning of the environmentally sensitive area in Bayshore Drive changed from tourism to residential

Linnaeus Estate DA raises concerns for residents

Community concern over the current development application (DA: 10.2021.170.1) for Linnaeus Estate in Broken Head has led to detailed analysis of the DA.

OCA a ‘diamond in the rough’

Around four years ago a group of like-minded friends started a Syntropic Farm project. Since that time, they have...

Interview with Nick Sergi, producer of the Byron Music Festival

Nick Sergi, producer of the Byron Music Festival talks to The Echo.

‘Natural’ cruelty

Richard Swinton, Clunes While I agree with Desmond Bellamy’s concerns about animal cruelty, the issue of ‘natural’ cruelty if the...

Plans to increase building heights in Byron CBD may be shelved

Byron Council’s controversial plan to increase building height limits on a block in the centre of Byron Bay looks set to be abandoned at this week’s planning meeting.

First Qantas flight arrives in Ballina to a wet welcome – photo David Lowe.

A QantasLink service from Sydney touched down in Ballina Byron Gateway Airport yesterday to a water cannon welcome from two fire trucks. It was the first flight from the airline into Ballina for fifteen years.

Airport Manager Julie Stewart said that in the wake of COVID-19 the airport has become the busiest in the state after Sydney.

Qantas flight arrives safely in Ballina – photo David Lowe.

‘Next week we’ll see an increase in services,’ she said. ‘Each of the airlines are introducing new services almost daily to Ballina.

‘It’s showing strong demand for tourism and business travel.’

With numbers during the lockdown period as low as 15 passengers a week, the airport is now looking at 5-6000 passengers travelling weekly.

Ballina Mayor David Wright said, ‘This is fantastic. It doesn’t seem like 15 years since they were here before, but this is the start of a new age for the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport.

‘You can see with the number of flights we’ve already got, up to 43 flights a week, and it will only improve.

Ballina Mayor David Wright and Ballina Byron Gateway Airport Manager Julie Stewart – photo David Lowe.

‘So I think as long as the virus stays away, and we can deal with that, I can see nothing but a really good forward future for the airport.’

Echonetdaily asked what special precautions were being taken to protect Northern Rivers locals from COVID-19 with all the extra visitors.

Ms Stewart said, ‘The airport’s been working together with the airlines to ensure the safety of the passengers and the community, so we have a number of COVID-safe practices.

‘We’re working with the airlines and the public health authorities to ensure we’re meeting all the guidelines and requirements, of both state and federal health regulations,’ she said.

Qantas flight crew at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, L-R Captain Sean Kennedy, Flight Attendant Fiona Crockett, Flight Attendant Christopher White, First Officer Adam Mather – photo David Lowe.

‘We’re implementing santisation, social distancing, temperature checks, which are above and beyond, and also ensuring the airlines are adhering to their COVID-safe plans as well.

‘We’ve increased the sanitation of staff, and the regime and protocols around that.’

Mayor Wright acknowledged the concerns of some locals.

He said, ‘I’ve certainly had a lot of people ring me, but Ballina Airport is owned by the people of the shire. Once you’ve got an airport, you work with agreements with the airlines, and airlines have got too much to lose.

‘I’ve been talking to them. The latest health guidelines for the airport are very comprehensive, and with the premier’s announcement this morning that people from certain suburbs won’t be welcomed into NSW, I think that takes people’s main worry out.’

Ms Stewart explained that Qantas and Jetstar are offering a ‘Flywell’ pack to customers, which contains hand sanitiser and wipes, as well as a mask.

She said the airport doesn’t have the authority to turn people back in case of temperature, ‘but we can alert airlines, and they have wellness practices to assess the situation, and can seek further medical advice about whether people can be carried.

‘The inbound passengers, if we detect a temperature there, they’re asked to visit a medical practitioner to seek further advice. We have no medical authority, and neither do we have any jurisdiction on giving orders to members of the public.’

Ballina Mayor David Wright at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport for the arrival of Qantas – photo David Lowe.

Mayor Wright commented on the COVID-19 situation by saying, ‘There’s been Queenslanders here right through the whole period, many of them, and enjoying it, and I think that people here have been very sensitive.

‘Their social distancing is still working. Most places I go to, people are really doing that well, and I think visitors just have to fit in with what’s happening in the shire.

‘At the moment the Prime Minister wants all the borders open, and we are happy to comply with that,’ said Mayor Wright.

‘We can’t be everyone’s police, and we’ve got a lot of people in town that depend on tourism, so you’ve got to try and balance it. At the moment, if there was any risk I’m quite certain the authorities would stop the flights,’ he said.

Tomorrow there will be another special welcome as FlyPelican commences its new service flying directly into Ballina Byron Gateway Airport from Canberra.

Airport Manager Julie Stewart said the tickets for the first flight from Canberra had sold ‘very quickly’, and anticipates a lot of enthusiasm for the new route from both the people of Canberra and the Northern Rivers.

* In breaking news, Virgin Australia is also coming back to Ballina under new ownership, with flights resuming in early August.


Photos David Lowe



Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. “we’ve got a lot of people in town that depend on tourism”
    ‘At the moment the Prime Minister wants all the borders open,”
    ‘We can’t be everyone’s police,”
    ‘So I think as long as the virus stays away, and we can deal with that,”
    …….And of course there’s not a lot older people in Ballina ,although it is worrying that a person from Melbourne, who was suffering symptoms and waiting on COVID test results boarded the XPT today for Sydney.
    I DO hope that ” virus stays away”, because there is no-one doing anything to stop it .
    Cheers, G”)

  2. Ken, look around and see just how many of we older people there are in Ballina. Tourists may be good for business, but if they bring the virus with them it could mean lockdown.

  3. Agree Pauline. The businesses won’t be happy if they have to close again. The CBD is dead at the moment with most retail business still closing at 2pm.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Power outage in Byron Shire

Power supply company Essential Energy says that approximately 1,780 homes and businesses were without supply this morning.

Filming of Byron Baes begins with no indigenous consultation

Filming of the Netflix series Byron Baes has reportedly commenced without any effort made by the show's production company – Eureka Productions – to consult with local indigenous groups or the local Council.

Byron Comedy Festival launched with a laugh

At a hilarious sold-out launch of the Byron Comedy Festival, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki had the entire Byron Bay Surf Club giggling last night

School Strike for Climate next Friday

Next Friday from 10am Byron Shire students will be demanding political action on the climate emergency in what they and their supporters say is our present, future and reality.