The first direct flight between the Pilbara and the Kimberley in three years landed in Broome on Friday, marking the beginning of a new inter-regional flight service for the North West.

Kununurra-based airline Aviair announced last month it would run regular commercial passenger flights several times a week on a nine-seater plane between Karratha, Paraburdoo, Port Hedland, Newman and Broome.

The Pilbara and Kimberley have not been connected directly by an air route since the path was dropped by Airnorth in 2016.

The first leg of the network took off from Karratha on Friday morning and landed in Broome about 1pm, where it was welcomed by a ceremonial water cannon and a round of applause from company staff.

Aviair managing director Michael McConachy said early signs of interest in the service had been positive.

“We’ve only had tickets on sale for a few weeks and already the sales have been very strong,” he said.

“It’s going to take people a while to get used to the service and know it’s out there and make the decision to maybe change their habits on whether they drive or fly via Perth, and that won’t all happen overnight, but we’ve been very encouraged by the take-up so far.”

The service has been financially supported by the City of Karratha and Shire of East Pilbara.

The Paraburdoo leg, which is expected to begin in several months, will be backed by Rio Tinto.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said he was confident the service would not only prove viable but expand in the long-term.

“The aeroplanes will get bigger, and the more seats there are on an aeroplane, the cheaper they become,” he said.

“We think that that will happen, and not only between Karratha and Newman but between us and Broome and Port Hedland ... so there’s huge potential.”

Broome International Airport chief executive Paul McSweeney said the arrival of the first flight was an exciting moment for the town.

“At the height of the service years ago, there were more than 10,000 people moving between the Kimberley and Pilbara and we have been keen to see that service re-introduced,” he said.

Shire of Broome councillors turned down a proposal to subsidise the flight service at their July meeting because of the Shire’s investment in establishing a direct service with Singapore.