Jetstar has lauded the success of its Melbourne to Busselton route, moving more than 25,000 passengers in the first six months. With Exmouth this week getting in on the direct flights action, the Busselton-Margaret River connection was looking increasingly like a permanent fixture despite plans to review the route – and the State Government’s undisclosed subsidy – after two years of operation. The strong showing ferrying tourist, family and friends into the Margaret River region as well as the perhaps unexpected flow-on of local and Perth footy fans heading east also underscored back room talks about adding Sydney – and eventually South East Asian flights – to the mix. Jetstar’s chief customer officer Alan McIntyre told the Times the route experienced “incredibly strong demand”. “With three return flights each week between Melbourne and Busselton, it’s never been easier or more affordable for interstate and international tourists to access Margaret River and the region’s world-class wineries and beaches, and for South West locals to head over east,” he said. “We’re looking forward to welcoming aboard thousands more customers over the summer holidays to help sustain and grow the region’s tourism industry.” The Times understands more Perth residents than expected took up the chance to fly out of Busselton due to free parking and to avoid queues, with Melbourne football a popular attraction. While the Times last month reported fewer tourists than expected were taking the trip west, the knock-on effect for the Capes economy was still a big factor. City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley said it was “worth the wait” to see the incoming visitor boom, with plans afoot for the east coast flights since expansion of the airport started in 2010. “It has not been easy, with the launch of direct flights postponed several times due to COVID, causing tourism and travel to face what was some tough challenges,” he said. “The City remains confident that this first regular service is just the beginning for the Busselton-Margaret River Airport. “It is anticipated additional frequency to the Melbourne service and new destinations will be secured in the future.” Regular Jetstar crew member Maree Schaefer said the Melbourne flights had a great vibe and were a pleasure to work because the longer time in the air gave the crew more time with passengers. “The flights have been very popular both to and from Busselton, and lots of holidaymakers have shared their stories of visiting wineries, going to weddings, and seeing family and friends,” she said. “We’ve also had plenty of locals heading across to Melbourne for shopping and to see shows and the footy.” Cr Henley had previously advocated for construction of a full adequate passenger terminal to facilitate more flights and a better landing experience, while more infrastructure for quarantine and Customs was needed before international trips could become a reality. Jetstar said the average passenger spent five-to-seven days in WA. About 14,000 more passengers were expected during Christmas and the summer break.