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Broome beckons for Skywest

SKYWEST is back in the sky and looking to the wide, white sandy beaches of Broome to secure its future.

With Ansett no longer flying to the north of the State, Skywest is keen to make inroads into the lucrative tourism market.

Before its collapse, Ansett was the major service provider for Broome. In the past few days, however, Qantaslink has announced plans to increase its service to Broome, Karratha and Kalgoorlie, delivering a regional service to seven regional centres in WA.

To begin with, Skywest will undertake a four-week trial of the Perth-Broome service with a view to extending its services to other towns, including Port Hedland.

“We believe there is a niche role for us to play,” Skywest manager sales and marketing Michael Crawshaw said.

“We see it as a small tourist niche. This is all to do with the long-term plans.”

Skywest business has been well supported by business travellers, particularly in the resource industry.

Flights to Broome will add tourists to the mix, although the work is seasonal and it’s unlikely the airline could sustain strong bookings outside of the peak tourism months – the dry season from May to September.

Skywest will operate one flight a week to begin with but it’s understood the service is likely to continue beyond the four-week trial period.

Mr Crawshaw said any decision to extend services in the north of State would lie with the new owners.

“Currently we go to about 13 destinations, the farthest north is Karratha,” he said.

“We’ve only been up and going two weeks (but) we’re very pleased and encouraged by the number of travellers and the forward bookings.

“And given the global situation, we feel it has had some effect on the amount of people travelling.”

Skywest former chief executive Bill Meeke is working in an advisory capacity for ABN Amro Morgans’ bid for Skywest.

Mr Meeke said that, as an offer was submitted last week, the administrators were expected to provide an opportunity to look at the company’s books in the next week.

“ABN Amro Morgans have provided the backing for the bid … our push is to keep Skywest WA owned,” Mr Meeke said.

“And without previous aviation experience I doubt a bid would be success-ful, it’s a very specialised business and very specific to WA. What will sometimes work in the eastern states will not always work here.”

Andersen manager corporate finance Shaun Day said Andersen currently was in the process of short-listing the bids. A data room would be made available to look at Skywest’s operations and figures, he said.

“We are most certainly concerned with who it is owned by … and one question we’ll specifically ask is about airline experience,” Mr Day said.

“However, at the same time, the Skywest operation is run fairly autonomously and management is reasonably strong, so you would be able to have a relatively hands-off approach.”

Andersen would not be drawn on whether there was any push to ensure the airline remains Australian owned.

“We will be looking to achieve a desirable outcome… it terms of foreign ownership I can’t really be drawn,” Mr Day said.

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