ORANGE Regional Airport has recorded its highest number of passengers since it opened, with more than 70,000 people flying last financial year.
The only time the numbers came close was in 2011-12 when numbers breached the 60,000 mark.
In 2016-17, 56,948 flew from or arrived at the airport, rising to 70,412 in 2017-18, a rise of 23 per cent.
Technical services director Ian Greenham said Regional Express (Rex) had improved its numbers by 10 per cent, while Fly Corporate had added its Brisbane and Melbourne routes.
The Brisbane route operated all year, bringing almost 8000 passengers, while the Melbourne route started in October, adding almost 4000.
Rex and Orange City Council entered a five-year partnership in May, which led to additional daily services, including a community fare scheme of $109 each way for flights between Orange and Sydney.
Councillor Jeff Whitton said growth depended on having the seats available.
The airlines have to make the seats available... and that’s what they’re doing.Councillor Jeff Whitton
“There’s been debate about doing certain things at the airport and the reason airlines don’t do it is because we don’t do the numbers,” he said.
“Well you can’t do the numbers if you don’t have seats – the airlines have to make the seats available and the numbers will come and that’s what they’re doing.”
Cr Whitton used the Melbourne route last week and said he preferred it to flying to Sydney first because it saved him money.
Airport community committee chairman councillor Sam Romano said it was a fantastic result, saying competition had improved the airport’s performance.
“Competition is very important in all industries – I don’t know if that’s been the driver, but it’s certainly made a difference,” he said.
Passengers can access Rex community fares, a saving of $55, for flights booked at least 30 days in advance, however leftover seats can also be snapped up 24 hours beforehand.
Eighty per cent of community fares so far have been booked the day prior.