Passengers catching a morning flight between Townsville and Mackay tomorrow will be sharing their trip with a special commuter.

After spending the past eight months in the care of Reef HQ Aquarium’s turtle hospital, Harry the hawksbill will be sent home to Mackay via a Qantas Link flight.

Aquarist Krystal Huff said air travel would be gentler on the marine animal than a long road trip.

“Putting Harry in the cargo-hold of the plane means he’ll be back in Mackay in about an hour which will put less stress on his body than a car trip of around four hours,” Krystal said.

“A flight isn’t really an option for big turtles, like the green turtles that we most commonly care for, however Harry is only 38cm long and 4.9 kilograms in weight, so he fits the bill in terms of passenger requirements.”

Eco Barge Clean Seas delivered Harry to Reef HQ Aquarium for rehabilitation in September 2013, after he was found washed up at Illawong Beach in Mackay suffering from floating syndrome.

X-rays revealed the condition was caused by lung contraction which can be sparked by a parasite or bacterial infection.

Anti-parasite medication, warm water and time at the turtle hospital enabled Harry to make a full recovery and to put on 1.2 kg in weight.

Townsville Airport chief executive officer Kevin Gill said he was pleased to see the turtle hospital use the services of the airport.

“We’ve been a supporter of the turtle hospital since its inception in 2009, and have long had a place in the airport where people can make a donation to this much-needed facility,” Mr Gill said.

“It also acts as a good reminder of the actions we can take as a community to protect these beautiful creatures.”

Once Harry arrives in Mackay, the Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association will transport him out to sea.

In Australian waters, hawksbill turtle populations are listed as ‘vulnerable’, while stocks in the Great Barrier Reef are considered to be in decline.

To report a sick, injured, stranded or dead marine mammal or turtle, contact 1300 ANIMAL (264 265).