On Friday, 5th March, I flew from Sydney to Grafton on REX airline when the train I planned to take was cancelled due to a derailment on 25th February, between Coffs Harbour and Grafton.
Unable to face the suggested alternative of a bus trip, due to a medical condition, I checked the flights from Sydney to Ballina via Jetstar, and Sydney to Grafton via Rex, and found that Rex was the cheaper by $50.
The distance from Rex check-in counter in the terminal to the plane was untaken by a bus so passengers didn’t have to walk. Not so for Jetstar passengers. I was surprised to find that there were only four passengers on the Rex flight with 30 seats. If this is a regular occurrence, then salaries for two pilots, a flight attendant and Sydney staff would hardly make this route viable. I was told that, unfortunately, flights between Sydney and Grafton are due to be discontinued on 26th March, 2021. Rex blames this on ‘aggressive’ tactics by Qantas.
Qantas and Jetstar successfully market their Sydney-Ballina service as the Ballina/Byron Bay route. I noticed Rex referred to the Grafton flight as the Grafton/Yamba route with obviously nowhere the same success. Ironically, Grafton has a large Free Parking area close to the terminal entrance and nearby Highway access, if you know the way, as I could see no sign indicating the road to the highway.
For Clarence Valley residents a regular air service from Grafton would appear to be a closer, cheaper and more convenient option than having to travel to Ballina. Now that this potential tourist and commercial asset is to cease, there are a few questions that arise.
Why wasn’t the service more heavily promoted by the local tourist industry and Council?
Why was better highway access not factored in to reach the airport or signs erected?
Was any consideration given to servicing the new Grafton Correctional centre, a place that will generate a lot of visitors in the future?
I feel this is a very poor outcome for the Clarence Valley and its growing population, and a classic example of the old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Jack Treacey, Yamba