Situated midway up the Western Australia coast, Karratha (pop.16,800) has the busiest airport (KTA) in regional Western Australia and handled over 433,200 passengers in the year ending 30 June 2019. According to BITRE, KTA is the 12th busiest regional airport in Australia and its number one route, Karratha-Perth-Karratha, is Australia’s 29th busiest airline route.
Karratha is a key service centre for the nearby industrial port of Dampier, iron ore mining, petroleum and LPG operations off the North West coast. It is also a key outpost for government services, including health and education. The Karratha Airport passenger profile is heavily skewed towards FIFO workers but also carries a significant number of public servants and professionals shuttling to and from Perth.
Karratha Airport has grown substantially on the back of the mining boom and the subsequent Dampier port expansion. Whilst that boom has matured, KTA hosts nearly 7,000 aircraft movements annually. The runway usually handles jets as large as Boeing 737s but can accommodate aircraft up to the size of Antonov AN124s and Boeing 767s. The airport terminal has eight gates, check in counters, restrooms, retail and cafe facilities, rental car desks, a Qantas Regional Lounge, and facilities for international arrivals and departures. The airport is served by Qantas, Virgin Australia, and local carrier Avair
Let’s have a look at what the airlines offer.
What airlines offer services into Karratha
Qantas is the dominant carrier in Karratha with 43 weekly return flights from Perth using mostly Boeing 717-200s but also the occasional Fokker 100. Flying time is two hours. Karratha-Perth is sole Qantas route from KTA. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays there are seven return flights. On Wednesdays and Thursdays there are eight return flights. On Sundays there are three return flights and on Saturdays there are two return flights. One of the quirks of the route is that on Monday morning ex Perth there are four Qantas jets heading up to Karratha in the space of two hours – all those FIFO workers.
Virgin Australia has fewer services in and out of Karratha. There are fourteen return flights a week from Perth using Fokker 100s. These flights include three return flights on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, two return services on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and a single return service on Saturdays and Sundays. Other Virgin Australia aircraft do appear on the tarmac at Karratha Airport, being FIFO charters from Port Hedland and Christmas Creek Mine.
Don’t forget Avair
Most folks won’t have heard of Avair. They are a Kununurra based charter airline that has recently diversified into regular passenger transport throughout the Pilbara and Kimberleys using B200 King Air turboprops. The airline has its own private terminal at KTA (7 Norman Road).
The little airline that could flies Karratha – Broome – Karratha on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Flying time is two hours. They fly Karratha-Port Hedland-Karratha on Wednesdays. Flying time is one hour. Finally, Avair flies Karratha-Newman-Karratha thrice weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The Friday flight goes via Port Hedland. Flying straight to Newman takes 90 minutes.
The take out
Offering three times as many flights from Perth as Virgin Australia does, Qantas offers the best frequency to Karratha. From a passenger’s perspective, the Qantas 717-200 beats the Fokker 100s offered by Virgin Australia. In addition, Qantas has a Regional Lounge at Karratha. These factors give Qantas a distinct edge over Virgin Australia when flying in and out of Karratha.
Readers will long memories or perhaps just a few grey hairs will remember the old West Coast milk runs offered by both Ansett WA and Qantas. Those milk runs are long gone. But town hopping along the West Coast involves big distances – it takes all day to drive from Karratha to Broome, so Avair gets points for having a crack at the intrastate West Coast market and offering services out of Karratha to other towns in Western Australia.
Categories: Karratha Airport