Tasmanian islands flights a ‘lifeline’ for tourism operators struggling amid COVID-19


The first regular passenger flights between mainland Tasmania and King and Flinders Islands will start operating by the end of the month to help businesses struggling with COVID-19 border closures.

A round trip from Hobart and Launceston will cost travellers about $480.

The State Government has reached an agreement with the flight operator Sharp Airlines to underwrite flights at less than 70 per cent capacity.

King Island mayor Julie Arnold said the service would be a “huge lifeline” for struggling tourism operators.

She said 90 per cent of their business came from Victoria as flights from Melbourne were much cheaper.

“We have had, once the borders closed, no market.

“If there’s no tourists, there’s no accommodation and that has been the situation for us.”

The 18-seater planes will take off on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and will run on a trial basis from September 30.

Councils will contribute by waiving landing fees.

Tourism Tasmania CEO John Fitzgerald said it would create new travel opportunities for locals.

“The Government is prepared to support the flights, but we want to get to 70 per cent and we think we can because we know Tasmanians on the mainland of the island want to get to our Bass Strait islands,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

King Island has become a popular golfing destination.(AAP Image / Tourism Tasmania )

One of King Island’s major attractions, the Cape Wickham golf course, has been open for locals to play throughout the pandemic, but its accommodation and restaurant have been closed since March.

Course superintendent John Geary is hopeful the new flights can be extended beyond the four-month trial period and become permanent.

“We certainly hope this isn’t just for the COVID period. There is a lot on offer on King Island and we’d like to see mainland Tassie people over here as much as possible,” he said

On ABC Hobart’s Facebook page, social media users reacted enthusiastically.

“Would love to go to Flinders and King Island,” one follower wrote.

But others questioned the price.

“Would have [visited] but not at that price,” one woman wrote.

“Family of five is a bit expensive!”

Grassy Harbour, King Island
As well as golf, King Island is known for its beef and cheese.(Facebook: King Island Life)



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