What Happened To Australia’s MacAir Airlines?

Australia’s MacAir Airlines was founded as McKinlay Air Charters in 1992 and began offering scheduled passenger flights in 1998. In May 2000, the Collins family, who were the airline’s owners, merged the airline with Brisbane-based Transjet. In 2003, to consolidate its grip on regional flights within the Australian state of Queensland, MacAir bought Horizon Airlines. The purchase elevated MacAir’s role to that of a major regional carrier, transporting passengers and cargo to all corners of Queensland.

With its main base at Townsville Airport (TSB) MacAir had hubs in the following locations:

  • Cairns Airport (CNS)
  • Mount Isa Airport (ISA)
  • Brisbane Airport (BNE)

MacAir provided flights to and from various mines

Because of the airline’s success in operating fly-in fly-out operations for the state’s mining companies, MacAir expanded to make its route between Townsville and Mount Isa one of the busiest in Queensland. Because of the demand from the mining industry, MacAir became a commercial partner with Australian national flag carrier Qantas and began flying ATR 42-500 twin-engine turboprops.

Now codesharing flights with Qantas, MacAir became a part of the Qantas global reservation network, allowing Queensland passengers to connect with the rest of the world with a single ticket.

MacAir got into financial difficulties

On January 29, 2009, MacAir voluntarily placed itself in receivership with its largest creditor, the Suncorp-Metway corporation, appointing multinational professional services company Ernst & Young to sort out the finances.

Before entering receivership, MacAir had approached the Queensland government asking for a one-off $7 million payment. The government refused and accused MacAir of having systemic failures. On February 6, 2009, the receiver shut the airline down, leading to the dismissal of 200 employees.

The receiver then sold off all the airline’s assets, which included one plane, as all the airline’s other planes were leased and returned to their owners. According to aviation enthusiast website, at its height, MacAir had a fleet of 13 planes that were prominently Swedish twin-engine turboprop Saab 340s.

Designed to seat between 30 and 36 passengers, the plane was ideally suited for small-town regional flights. Other aircraft in MacAir’s fleet included a STOL capable De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter and a 29-seat British Aerospace Jetstream 41, and the already mentioned much larger ATR 42/72.

MacAir routes in Queensland

Before the airline ceased operations in 2009, it flew from Townsville Airport (TSB) to the following destinations:

  • Cloncurry Airport (CNJ)
  • Cairns Airport (CNS)
  • Mount Isa Airport (ISA)
  • Brisbane Airport (BNE)
  • Winton Airport (WIN)
  • Longreach Airport (LRE)
  • Moranbah Airport (MOV)
  • Mackay Airport (MKY)
  • Emerald Airport (EMD)
  • Hughenden Airport (HGD)
  • Richmond Airport (RCM)
  • Julia Creek Airport (JCK)

Queensland mapFights from Cairns Airport (CNS) to:

  • Mount Isa Airport (ISA)
  • Normanton Airport (NTN
  • Mornington Island Airport (ONG)
  • Burketown Airport (BUC)
  • Doomadgee Airport (DMD)
  • Edward River Airport (EDR)
  • Kowanyama Airport (KWM)

Flights from Brisbane Airport (BNE) to:

  • Moranbah Airport (MOV)
  • Townsville Airport (TSB)
  • St George Airport (SGO)
  • Cunnamulla Airport (CMA)
  • Thargomindah Airport (XTG)
  • Charleville Airport (CTL)
  • Quilpie Airport (ULP)
  • Birdsville Airport (BVI)
  • Bedourie Airport (BEU)
  • Mount Isa Airport (ISA)
  • Boulia Airport (BQL)

MacAir also flew charters to mines at Osborne Mine Airport (OSO), Cannington Mine (BHP), and Century Mine Airport (YCNY).

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