Located midway between Sydney and Brisbane on Australia’s east coast, Coffs Harbour (pop.75,000) has a busy regional airport (CFS) that handled over 413,000 passengers last year. BITRE statistics reveal that CFS is the 16th busiest regional airport in Australia and the key route, Coffs Harbour-Sydney-Coffs Harbour is Australia’s 33rd busiest airline route.
Coffs Harbour is a popular tourist centre. It also has a sizable permanent population and is the biggest town between Newcastle and the Gold Coast. Over the past decade Coffs Harbour has grown steadily. People are drawn by the weather, the beaches, and the relatively inexpensive housing.
Concurrently the airport has grown steadily. The airport now handles over aircraft 27,000 movements annually and has a runway capable of handling a Boeing 767. It has a modern terminal with check in counters, a cafe, restrooms, meeting rooms, and even a Qantas Lounge. Four airlines operate regular passenger transport services into Coffs Harbour – QantasLink, Virgin Australia, Tiger Airways, and Fly Corporate.
Let’s have a look at what the airlines offer.
What the airlines offer into Coffs Harbour
QantasLink has the most skin in the game at Coffs Harbour with 34 weekly return flights to Sydney using Dash 8 400s. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays there are are five return flights. On Fridays there are six return flights and on Saturdays there are three return flights.
Virgin Australia has a daily 737-800 return service between Sydney and Coffs Harbour. Virgin Australia is the only airline offering a business class product into Coffs Harbour.
Tiger Airways flies between Sydney and Coffs Harbour every morning six days a week. It doesn’t operate a service on Saturdays. Tiger Airways also offers the only direct air services between Melbourne and Coffs Harbour, offering a return service on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Fly Corporate, a small commuter airline that operates Saab 340B Plus turboprops, offers a handy service between Coffs Harbour and Brisbane. The service operates six days a week with no flights on Saturdays. On Fridays it offers two return flights.
The take out
Offering as many flights as the other three carriers combined. QantasLink has the majority of the flights in and out of Coffs Harbour. It also wins with its Qantas Regional Lounge at Coffs Harbour. Frequency and the lounge gives it a big edge over the other carriers. On the flipside, QantasLink only flies to Sydney and they only use turboprops on the route.
Tiger Airways picks up a jersey for its Coffs Harbour-Melbourne flights, being the only carrier to offer them. Tiger Airways has its detractors but they use jets and their fares are inexpensive.
Virgin Australia’s commitment to Coffs Harbour is pretty lacklustre. Sure, it flies a 737-800 into the airport and it has business class, but it’s a single daily service. Regional routes like this could be on Virgin CEO’s Paul Scurrah’s short list as he looks to cut routes as part of a cost cutting program.
And Fly Corporate fills a handy niche with its Coffs Harbour-Brisbane flights. Sure it using a bumpy commuter turboprop but one hour on that is a far better option than being stuck on the M1 at the Tweed Heads border on a Friday afternoon.