Airnorth Celebrates 35 Years


In July 1978 the Northern Territory achieved self-government, and Australia’s second oldest airline Airnorth took to the air. Nowadays the airline operates the world’s most sophisticated regional jet aircraft, and continues to expand. In its early years, Airnorth operated a fleet of single and twin engine Cessna chartered aircraft throughout the NT, as well as internationally to Indonesia. In 1981, Airnorth purchased the NT’s first turbine-engine aircraft, a Beechcraft Super King Air 200, introducing higher standards of comfort, speed and safety to air travel in the NT. The 1980s also saw Airnorth purchase its first airliner, a Douglas DC-3. Along with its existing charter flights, the airline expanded to offer Regular Public Transport (RPT) services across the NT and by the end of the decade had established itself as the major aircraft operator in Northern Australia, with a fleet of 44 aircraft. Several major developments in the 1990s further cemented Airnorth’s position as the leading aviation company in the Top End. This included: • establishment of Capiteq Limited in 1993 (Airnorth’s current owners) when the Skyport Group bought into the business; • introduction of turbo-prop aircraft into its fleet, including the Fairchild Metro 23 (in 1995) and Embraer 120 Brasilia (in 1997); and • introduction of Airnorth as the first commercial airline to operate services into East Timor after the country’s independence in 1999 and still operating 14 years later. Over the past three and a half decades Airnorth has developed many long term and successful partnerships with some of the world’s largest and most respected mining and resource companies. It was Airnorth’s partnership with McArthur River Mine (Xstrata Zinc) in 2006 that played an integral part in the introduction of the 76 seat, Embraer 170 Jet aircraft into the airline’s fleet. Airnorth’s Chief Executive Officer, Michael Bridge said, “The key to success was the collaborative approach to the contract. “It was a win-win for both companies – it provided the passenger capacity needed by the mine at an efficient cost, while allowing Airnorth to leverage the contract for growth. “The introduction of the jet into our fleet in 2007 transformed our business. Every market we have put that jet into has grown overnight, and we now operate four E170 jets across our network,” Michael said. Airnorth now operate the world’s most sophisticated regional jet aircraft into some of the world’s most challenging environments. With their hub in Darwin, the airline carries over 300,000 passengers annually, employs over 200 staff, and directly contracts a similar number across their network of ports. Airnorth operates over 185 departures a week to 19 destinations in three Australian States/Territories, and three countries. Destinations include Darwin, Groote Eylandt, Gove, Maningrida, Milingimbi, Elcho Island and McArthur River in the NT; Kununurra, Broome, Karratha, Port Hedland and Perth in Western Australia; Townsville, Mt Isa and the Gold Coast in Queensland. International flights go to Dili in Timor-Leste, and Manilla in the Philippines. Airnorth is a full service carrier accommodating the needs of both business and leisure travellers, operating state-of-art regional jets through its interstate and international network, and providing passengers with complimentary catering and a free baggage allowance. Passengers can earn and redeem Qantas Frequent Flyer points on all Airnorth scheduled services. Through its partnership with Qantas, Airnorth offers seamless connectivity including through check in and interline baggage facilities, with Qantas code sharing on all of Airnorth’s jet services. In addition to scheduled departures, Airnorth operates contract and ad-hoc charter services for a wide variety of companies undertaking oil and gas, mining, defence and government activity. Airnorth has won their third award in as many years at the 2013 Northern Territory Chief Minister’s Industry and Export Awards. This year they were awarded the Minerals and Energy Award recognising their contribution to the local economy for their contract services.

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