Aviair (GD, Kununurra) is to lease an unspecified number of DHC-8-Q400s from Nordic Aviation Capital to bolster its burgeoning regular passenger transport (RPT) operations in Western Australia (WA). The deal represents a big step up for the small airline that plies its trade up and down the WA coast using a fleet of GippsAero GA8 Airvans, Pilatus PC-12s, Beech (twin turboprop) B200s, and Cessna (single turboprop) 208 Grand Caravans.

In addition to doing brisk business running charter and sightseeing operations on Australia's northwest coast, Aviair operates one "lightly regulated" RPT route - Kununurra - Kalumburu, and three fully regulated RPT routes - Kununurra - Halls Creek - Balgo Hill; Karratha - Broome - Newman - Port Hedland; and Derby, WA - Broome. Lightly regulated routes are open to competition and subject to WA Department of Transport supervision while fully regulated routes provide sole operator status.

Aviair, which has its RPT routes to itself, secured AUD4 million (USD2.65 million) via the Inter-Regional Flight Network (IRFN) subsidy scheme in the May 2022 WA Government budget to beef up its RPT flying, including starting new routes such as Karratha - Geraldton, WA and increasing capacity. The IRFN scheme subsidises routes that are uneconomic to fly but serve the public interest to maintain. The funding also helps offset the costs of new aircraft leases.

At the time of the budget announcement, WA's transport minister, Rita Saffioti, noted Aviair's plans to upgrade from nine seat to 74 seat aircraft. Notably, Aviair has also been advertising for Q400 Captains and First Officers to be based in Geraldton. Coinciding with Saffioti's comments, Aviair said it would work with local government on financial packages regarding any new routes. Local governments, akin to county-level governments, own and maintain most of the airports in the region and charge user airlines a variety of fees and taxes to cover costs.

In July, the WA Government announced an extension of the Aviair-operated Derby to Broome subsidised air service trial that had been due to end in August. It will now run through to June 30, 2023, offering passengers a continuation of the AUD119 one-way fares (USD79) that had already cost the WA Government AUD1 million (USD666,000) in subsidies in its first ten months of operation.

Rex - Regional Express, which also operates on three fully regulated routes in WA has also flagged deploying some of its recently acquired DHC-8-Q400s and E190s in routes within the state. Qantas, Virgin Australia, Skippers Aviation, and Airnorth (Australia) also fly on lightly and fully regulated RPT routes in WA, albeit without such generous support from the state government,