FLY-IN, fly-out workers in the resources industry will be in for an early present with direct flights to Mackay expected before Christmas.
Sunshine Coast Airport manager Peter Pallot said he was confident a deal would be in place by the end of the year, providing a major boost for the region's 10,000-strong fly-in, fly-out workforce.
The news came as the Coast welcomed the return of Tiger Airways flights from Melbourne.
Only two seats were vacant on Tiger's first flight back to the Sunshine Coast since the airline was grounded in 2011. Bookings are also extremely strong for the entire Easter holiday.
Tiger Airways is initially offering flights four days a week on the Melbourne to Sunshine Coast route, but hopes to bump this figure up to seven days a week by June.
This will mean an extra 2520 visitor seats weekly through the Sunshine Coast Airport.
But what the Sunshine Coast has lacked for too long is services flying north.
After months of negotiations, Mr Pallot believes this is finally on the table.
"This has been our highest priority," he said.
"There is a strong demand with up to 10,000 Sunshine Coast residents involved in the mining industry. We are bringing all the parties to the table - the mining companies, the airlines and the recruitment agencies - and believe it can be done before Christmas."
The first aim was to secure regular trips to Mackay, followed by Gladstone, Emerald and Cairns.
Mr Pallot said having the flights in place by Christmas would give those living up north an opportunity to enjoy the swimmer-friendly Sunshine Coast beaches over summer.
"You can't swim in the sea in Mackay at Christmas, so it would be wonderful for people there to be able to take a break here," he said.
"It's not just about providing a service for our residents to fly up to the mines north. It is also about giving those working in the north an opportunity to enjoy a well-earned break."
Mr Pallot said the airport had long had the "capacity and the willingness to work" with the major airlines in bringing this vision to reality.
Mayor Mark Jamieson, Mr Pallot and councillors Jason O'Pray and Steve Robinson were also on the ground yesterday as Tiger flights roared back into the Coast.
Cr Jamieson said the return of Tiger was a "really important stimulus" for the region and a fantastic opportunity for tourists and businesses.
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