Wagner wants a million passengers within two years
LATEST: QantasLink's chief says 85,000 passengers will pass through Wellcamp Airport within its first 12 months of operation.
Self-proclaimed optimist John Wagner expects that figure to reach a million annual passengers within just two years - a mammoth task, but the Wagners director has reason to dream big.
Yesterday's announcement that QantasLink would offer regular Toowoomba-Sydney flights from November 17 was the milestone everybody was waiting for.
WHAT'S ONLINE TODAY:
- Westbrook survivors share stories of brutality
- Theft from boss earns community service for Toowoomba mum
- Country gardens reap national award
- Mental breakdown behind Cambooya rental home blaze
The Wagner family no doubt breathed a sigh of relief at closing the deal, having spent "closer to $200 million than to $100 million" on the project.
Mr Wagner made sure everybody knew the airport was built without government financial assistance, directing several comments to Premier Campbell Newman who was present for the announcement.
He described his first project briefing with the newly-elected Premier at a luncheon in Toowoomba.
"I told him about the project, that we were building an airport, and the first thing he said was, 'How much money are you looking for?'" Mr Wagner said.
Will you use the Wellcamp to Sydney route?
This poll ended on 03 October 2014.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
"I said to him, 'we don't want a cent from you, we just want to get out of our road and let us get on with the job'.
"And that has certainly been the case, and we congratulate your government on being proactive."
QantasLink will start Toowoomba-Sydney services aboard 74-seater Q400 aircraft on November 17 - still not the jets the airport is capable of accommodating.
It will initially run 11 return flights a week with double daily services on weekdays and daily services on weekends.
QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the company would start with "about 85,000 seats annually into the market initially" and then "see how things go".
"The schedule will get customers from Wellcamp down into the Sydney market by about 8am," he said.
"They'll be able to do their work and finish a day's activity in Sydney and be back on a 6pm flight."
Mr Gissing said the Q400s, while not jets, were up to the job.
"We say jet-like speeds because it does travel at jet-like speeds and the flight time (is) under two hours down to Sydney," he said.
"So it's a great product and just the right aircraft for this market, we believe, in the start-up."
When asked if he planned to take customers away from Brisbane Airport, Mr Wagner was explicit in his response.
"Absolutely we do . . . You've got to keep it in mind if we got to a million passengers a year, which I think we will in pretty short order over the next couple of years, that's similar to a Mackay or a Newcastle," he said.
"Brisbane does, you know, 22 million passengers, so at the moment they're congested.
"When we flew down this morning we were in a holding pattern for nearly half an hour to get into Brisbane.
"So we're here to help them out, actually."
Premier Newman said taxpayers would appreciate the Wagners' massive infrastructure spend.
"I'd say that the taxpayers should be very grateful that this large and successful Queensland company have put their money up to make it happen and I know they'll get a lot of credit for that."
EARLIER: Regional carrier Skytrans has announced that it will stop its Toowoomba-Sydney flights, after Qantas was confirmed to have signed on to Wellcamp Airport today.
A press release from Skytrans issued this afternoon, shortly after Wellcamp's announcement, said it would "hand over controls" to the major carrier Qantas.
QantasLink will be operating 11 return flights to Sydney each week from Wellcamp.
Skytrans managing director Simon Wild said the city could not sustain two players.
"This is a cause for celebration for the people of Toowoomba, and we congratulate both Qantas and the Wagner family for this exciting announcement," Mr Wild said.
"Unfortunately we are a small family airline and our cost structure does not allow us to compete.
"Many regional markets just aren't big enough for two players, and being a small regional airline, we simply can't compete with the larger carriers."
Mr Wild promised a "seamless" transition, and said customers that had purchased a flight after an unnamed "changeover date" would be contacted by the airline.
QantasLink Q400 planes will take off from the airport, built 20km from Toowoomba over the past 18 months.
Wagners Chairman John Wagner said he was confident of a long-term relationship with QantasLink given the demand from business and leisure travel to Australia's second largest inland city after Canberra.
"This is a momentous occasion for Australian aviation, our Toowoomba region and the airport," said Mr Wagner.
"I speak on behalf of Wagners' four shareholders, Joe, Denis, Neill and myself when I say that we always knew a major airline would see the potential of servicing South West Queensland."
QantasLink is selling $99 one-way fares to Sydney as an introductory offer.
QantasLink CEO John Gissing, who flew into Wellcamp today, said he was delighted to offer customers flights to the country's newest airport.
"Qantas' history began in Queensland over 94 years ago, so we're delighted to be part of this important milestone in Queensland's history," Mr Gissing said.
"As Australia's largest regional airline, we understand the needs of regional Australia and we're confident that the new route will stimulate tourism and business opportunities for the Toowoomba area.
Queensland premier Campbell Newman flew into the airport south of Toowoomba this morning to make the announcement.
The premier was joined by QantasLink CEO John Gissing and members of the Wagners family.
QantasLink will fly 11 flights a week to Sydney from the airport, with tickets on sale from today.
The Chronicle revealed Qantas as the first major airline to sign-on for the airport last night.