Service up in the air

A Metroliner in Free Spirit livery which was on contract from Sharp Airlines.
A Metroliner in Free Spirit livery which was on contract from Sharp Airlines.

The future of the service between Merimbula and Melbourne’s Essendon Airport operated by Free Spirit Airlines appears to be up in the air following reports that the airline will no longer operate from Essendon.

The service has made an intermittent appearance at Merimbula Airport with the last scheduled service landing on January 22, 2018.

There are however reports of a smaller 10-seater Piper Chieftain aircraft coming into Merimbula at the same time the 19-seater Metroliner, that Free Spirit had used in the past, was scheduled to arrive.

At Essendon Airport the CEO Christopher Cowan said that Free Spirit Airlines would no longer be operating from the airport from March 5.

The airport issued Free Spirit Airlines with a Notice to Vacate on Monday, February 5, 2018, which will be effective from Monday, March 5, 2018.

“The airline is ceasing operations from Essendon. We are disappointed and believe that there is market demand for the route.

“We had some great feedback with people saying they liked the service and liked being closer to the centre of Melbourne,” Mr Cowan said.

Four other airlines currently operate out of Essdendon on eight regional routes.

Mr Cowan said that there was interest in the Merimbula route “but it needs to be reliable and more frequent” than three days a week.

“It’s a targeted route and we’ve spoken to council and to the operators at Merimbula Airport,” Mr Cowan added.

It’s a targeted route. We’ve spoken to council and to the airport operators.

Christopher Cowan, CEO Essendon Airport

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority does not have Free Spirit Airlines listed as a holder of an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) which is an authorisation to conduct commercial activities.

However managing director Roman Badov is listed as an AOC holder for charter operations through a company called Elite Airways. The AOC was issued November 20, 2017.

Last year Mr Badov had some close financial shaves with lawyers for Airservices Australia, which provides air traffic control services, issuing a winding up order on Free Spirit in July. The order was later dismissed. This followed an earlier winding up order in March 2017 which was later dismissed.

Mr Badov was contacted for a comment.