By James Wilkinson

The Far North Queensland MICE industry has been given a new year’s present from Pacific Blue Airlines, with the carrier announcing the launch of direct Auckland-Cairns flights from March 23.

The new twice-weekly flights represent a 79 per cent increase of available seats on the route and mean the region can further tap into the lucrative Auckland outbound conference and incentive travel market.

Pacific Blue, Virgin Blue’s New Zealand-based international airline, will operate the flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays and is currently stimulating demand with flights from $249 each way including taxes.

“We’re particularly excited about this new service as it’s our first international route to and from Cairns,” says Virgin Blue Group CEO Brett Godfrey.

“Importantly, we know that by putting more seats into the market and creating more competition we will be helping to stimulate tourism to the popular Far North Queensland region,” he says.

With over 30,000 visitors from New Zealand heading to Far North Queensland every year, Godfrey says the new services will not only provide an alternative travel option but will also help grow the market.

“Furthermore, the non-stop services will negate the need for travellers in either direction to connect via other ports, so a trip ‘across the ditch’ will be a much quicker, more convenient and affordable option for everyone,” he says.

The new flights will be operated by 180-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft and following the current sale, regular lead-in fares will start from $349 each way.