Dubbo residents will be able to fly between the city and Ballina, for just $149 each way, from the end of this month.
In a partnership between Dubbo Regional Council, Ballina Shire Council and Fly Pelican the flights will start from Friday, August 28, with tickets on sale for the inaugural flight on Thursday, council reports.
Following a confidential report to its July meeting, council's Airport Advisory Panel committed to the partnered trial of the new flight route to help stimulate the regional economy and increase access to domestic markets.
Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields said it was more important than ever that communities, businesses and councils look at innovative ways to operate.
"In undertaking a well-considered, partnered approach, the trial will provide immediate stimulus and the opportunity for the partnering councils and airline to examine whether the route is supported by the community and is a viable opportunity for the long term," he said.
"We are looking at increasing connection between two beautiful destinations with great nature-based, open air offerings - which are of great appeal to people in the current environment."
Director Culture and Economy Natasha Comber says the COVID-19 environment has delivered a surge in interest for regional travel, with the latest data from WOTIF showing that there has been a 260 per cent increase for searches related to destination Dubbo, with Byron Bay experiencing a 200 per cent increase in organic searches.
"We've seen an increase in visitation to the Dubbo region, six per cent year on year to March and there is opportunity to strategically grow our visitor economy and support the region's business during this period. Whilst product development with the airline was important, the trial is just as much about creating a positive marketing opportunity for both destinations as it is for air travel," she said
The trial had been developed in recent weeks and all partners will work together to continuously monitor the environment to ensure the trial can be flexible if required.
"All partners are well aware that we are operating in a changing environment. Whilst opening direct access will create economic and social outcomes for communities in both destinations, we will continue monitoring the COVID situation and address any impacts to this trial, this includes agreed course of action to support refunds if mandatory travel bans are imposed by relevant government authorities," Ms Comber said.
The strategic appeal of building a NSW-to-NSW route is in response to international and state travel restrictions, and about removing the need for travel via a metropolitan airport.
The trial is being supported with a passenger fee subsidy in line with adopted revenue policy to support new route development, in addition to a low-risk safety net shared between the two councils which has been based on the airline's direct operational costs only. DRC has also written to the Federal Government asking for route development to be included in future funding programs.
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