A Queensland-based charter flight operator is eyeing Wagga for regular services amid the suspension of JetGo flights, but the company’s boss insists he’s not trying to “jump on their carcass ... and feast on it”.
Simon Waters, a pilot and the director of Stratus Aviation, has told the Advertiser Wagga residents could see the company’s planes in the sky within months – but not necessarily in time to fill the current void left by embattled airline JetGo going into voluntary administration.
While the company’s initial focus is on JetGo’s most profitable routes, from Wollongong to Melbourne’s Essendon Airport and Wollongong to Brisbane, Mr Waters said Wagga ranked highly with Stratus’ charter services and it would be be “stupid not to put on a service” here.
Stratus’ regular Illawarra services are in the final stages of regulatory approval, with Wagga and Dubbo also on the route radar.
“We aren’t looking at just simply chartering aircraft, we are actually putting a scheduled service into the Illawarra to be able to service Essendon and the Gold Coast, with the potential for Wagga to be the third option,” he said.
The decision wasn’t reactive to JetGo’s financial turmoil, Mr Waters said.
“We’re not trying to jump on their carcass here and feast on it, this is something that’s been in the making for a while,” he said.
The profitability of the Illawarra routes, which Mr Waters said carried about 16,000 passengers in the past six months, could prop up a Riverina connection.
“We can pick up a lot of work very quickly from the Illawarra-Essendon route, so we can bank enough to be in a position where we can then bring out another route, which we want to do as quickly as possible,” he said.
Stratus made itself known in the Riverina earlier this year when it offered private chartered flights to get punters to the Wagga Gold Cup.
Asked if Stratus would cover JetGo’s suspended Wagga-Brisbane and Wagga-Gold Coast routes, Mr Waters said he would be “looking at the third option” – Wagga or Dubbo – in the next six to eight weeks.
“There’s an 80 per cent chance you’ll see a Stratus Aviation aircraft, once we’ve got the regulatory approval, landing into Wagga,” he said.
The company has not yet entered into talks with Wagga City Council.
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said it was too early for the council to begin lobbying another airline.
“JetGo are telling us that hopefully they may be able to resume services in July,” Cr Conkey said.
While you’re with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox each day at 6am from the Daily Advertiser. To make sure you’re up to date with all the Wagga news and sport, sign up here.