Airline takes a dive

NORFOLK Air's Gold Coast flights have crash landed almost immediately after take-off.

Airline staff yesterday announced that the global economic crisis had forced them to suspend the service less than two weeks after it was launched.

With their predominant tourism market, retirees and seniors, hit hard in the financial meltdown, Norfolk Air has suspended its Gold Coast service, which began on October 2 and as a result, all flights to and from Gold Coast Airport to the island will cease from November 6.

A second weekly service from Melbourne operating on Tuesdays will also be cancelled and the airline's Wednesday service to Sydney will be suspended until February 2009. Norfolk Air chief executive Jeff Murdoch said the decision to suspend the services had not been reached lightly and that everyone involved was disappointed.

"It is disappointing, but the whole world economic crisis is disappointing at the moment," Mr Murdoch said.

"We are disappointed the Gold Coast service has not been given the opportunity to prove itself, because we know it takes a while to get the numbers up and prove how valuable the service is."

It is understood the airline will keep monitoring the state of the global economy in order to determine whether the flights will be reinstated.

"Seniors and active retirees are being hit so hard by recent circumstances they are now not only not looking, they are just shelfing plans to go on holidays," Mr Murdoch said. "Flights are being cancelled. We have to make the right decisions." Norfolk Air is owned by the Norfolk Island Government and Ozjet and Our Airline act as operating partners for the airline.

When the Gold Coast service was launched earlier this month, Norfolk Island's chief minister Andre Nobbs said it held enormous potential for the island's tourism industry because the Gold Coast Airport serviced one million potential customers from Grafton to Coomera. Norfolk Island Minister for Finance Neville Christian said both the Norfolk Island Government and Norfolk Air regretted the inconvenience the suspensions would cause to customers already booked on the service. Mr Murdoch said Norfolk Air was working hard to ensure passengers with seats booked on Gold Coast flights would be looked after.

"We are reaccommodating those persons over to Brisbane," he said. "We are making arrangements to assist them with transport to Brisbane. "But it is not all doom and gloom. We know we have a great product and we know we are more competitive with the new exchange rate of the Aussie dollar."

Gold Coast Airport chief operating officer Paul Donovan said while it was disappointing to lose one flight a week, the airport had just secured several extra flights to New Zealand.

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