Friday, June 1, 2012

CQ Plane Spotting Historic Spot - MacAir Airlines

MacAir Airlines was established and started charter operations in 1992 as McKinlay Air Charters, adding scheduled services in 1998. In May 2000, the Collings family sold the airline to Transjet, owner of Transtate Airlines. The two brands were merged and operate under the MacAir name. In November 2003, MacAir acquired Horizon Airlines. MacAir grew to become a major player in Australia's regional aviation network and played an important role in providing transport to both passengers and freight throughout regional Queensland and northern New South Wales.  MacAir was based in Townsville, and staff were based in Townsville, Cairns, Mount Isa and Brisbane.

MacAir originally commenced operations flying charters for the mining developments that took place at the time in Western Queensland and, as the mines grew, so too did MacAir.  Most of the mines operated under a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) staffing arrangement, whereby management and crew that live elsewhere (mainly in coastal cities) fly in to the mine site to complete their working roster.

In 1998, MacAir introduced regular passenger transport (RPT) services on regional routes in Northern Queensland.  One of the busiest routes in MacAir’s RPT network of eventually 34 routes throughout regional Queensland and New South Wales, was the link between Townsville and Mount Isa.  MacAir serviced the route 32 times each week, with most of the flights being operated by their ATR 42-500, and others by their SAAB 340s (both types are pictured at Townsville Airport below). MacAir offered full cabin service on this 2-hour sector.

As the airline grew so did MacAir’s reputation for delivering safe, efficient, friendly, and cost effective air services to its clients, through its focus on customer service and its ability to identify and meet its customers’ needs in a timely manner.

As MacAir grew and opened more routes throughout regional Queensland, the airline secured several Queensland Government (Queensland Transport) contracts to operate subsidised air services to communities across the northern, western and gulf regions of Queensland.  

One such sector I took in the 2007 was from Townsville to Winton to Longreach and return in Metro 23 VH-UUB.

 As a valued Qantas commercial partner, MacAir had worldwide distribution through a hosting in the Qantas reservations system.  The introduction of the SAAB 340 lead to the signing of Qantas’ first domestic code share agreement.  This enabled Qantas to offer its customers seats on selected SAAB 340 flights.

However, MacAir started running into operational problems, with the Queensland Government receiving numerous complaints about delayed flights, cancellations or even the non-arrival of some scheduled flights.  MacAir itself even expressed concerns over fulfilling all of its services adequately.

The situation eventually came to a head when the Government announced MacAir would vary its contract with the Queensland Transport, meaning a new open tender for several of the air services that MacAir flew would be called. 

This signalled the beginning of the end for Macair and at the end of January in 2009, Macair went in voluntary administration. The administrators for MacAir asked the government for a one-off $7 million payment, not linked to performance, which was refused.  The company was wound up shortly after.

Ex-MacAir ATR 42-500 VH-UYJ is pictured parked at Cairns Airport being prepared for its eventual export to Norway.

Destinations At the end of January 2009 - MacAir operated to the following scheduled destinations - 
From Townsville to:  Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Winton, Longreach, Moranbah, Brisbane, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek.
From Cairns to:  Mount Isa, Normanton, Mornington Island, Burketown, Doomadgee, Pormpuraaw (Edward River), Kowanyama.
From Brisbane to:  Moranbah, Townsville, Oakey, St George, Cunnamulla, Thargomindah, Charleville, Quilpie, Birdsville, Bedourie, Boulia, Mount Isa.
Also charter connections for mining companies from Townsville to:  Osborne, BHP's Cannington, Zinifex Century Mine

As of January 2009 the Macair Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft:  1 ATR 42-500, 2 Fairchild SA227-DC Metro 23, 7 Saab 340B (six second generation 340B and one third generation 340B+).

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