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Infrastructure stories

Airport predicts 3m pax a year

Edition 192_Renner

Hobart International Airport had the busiest day in its history on Boxing Day and is expecting three million passengers a year by 2022.

Launceston Airport is winning national accolades for the way it has geared up for Tasmania's tourism boom, while Devonport's airport is developing its own master plan to enable it to keep up.

The TT-Line will deploy two new ships by 2022 to meet projected demand and airport operators know they can't afford to lag.

The Chief Executive of Hobart Airport, Sarah Renner, believes there will be direct flights from Asia and New Zealand by 2022 and she has plans to also target flights from the Americas.

A direct link to Hong Kong is firmly on the radar after visits to China's gateway by a delegation from Hobart Airport and the State Government.

Direct flights from other Asian cities are also on the drawing board following the official opening of a 500m runway extension in February.

The runway has been extended from 2,224m to 2,724m (150m on the Pittwater end and 350m towards Seven Mile Beach).

Turning nodes have been relocated and expanded to allow larger and heavier aircraft to use the runway.

The project has three primary goals: opening direct export routes between Tasmania and Asia to service seafood and other fresh-produce markets; fuelling tourism; and cementing Tasmania’s position as an Antarctic gateway by increasing aviation capability.

Ms Renner told a media conference at the official opening: “We are talking with airlines internationally, we have certainly spoken about New Zealand [which would link] Tasmania to the Americas and South-East Asia, hopefully, opening up Europe to Tasmania.

The $40 million project was enabled through a $38 million infrastructure grant from the Australian Government.

Ms Renner said: “The extension will immediately increase our reach as an airport, enabling direct flights from Hobart to South East Asia, as an example, and will also enhance Hobart’s role as a gateway to the Antarctic.

“The runway extension will now allow large, fully loaded aircraft to travel directly from Hobart to the ice continent, making Hobart an extremely competitive Antarctic gateway.

“The continued development has followed an increase in passenger numbers from 1.8 million in 2009 to 2.52 million in 2017, and we expect similar growth into the future,” she said.

When it was privatised 1998, the airport was receiving 856,000 passengers a year.

Other recent changes at the airport include the relocation of security screening systems, an expanded terminal, front of house developments and the installation of new airfield lighting systems.

A $13 million export-freight facility is planned.

Ms Renner told The Sunday Tasmanian: "Imagine a punnet of berries hand-picked from a farm in the Coal Valley one day and then being purchased at a market in southern Asia the very next.

"The possibilities this will open up are immense."

Domestic flights have surged, including direct Jetstar flights from Hobart to Adelaide, direct Tiger Air flights from Hobart to the Gold Coast and more seats on Qantas aircraft flying between Hobart and Sydney and Melbourne.

Ms Renner said: "Growth has been driven by a whole-of-industry effort, which has seen private operators, the State Government and Tourism Tasmania and industry bodies working effectively together."

The airport accommodated 76 aircraft movements on a jam-packed Boxing Day, with more than 7,000 visitors flying in.

Ms Renner said more passengers than Tasmania’s population passed through the airport’s gates in December and January.

“Boxing Day was our busiest day ever ... eclipsing our previous record of 68 aircraft movements,” she said.

Professor Can Seng Ooi, a Co-Director of the Tourism Research and Education Network at UTAS, said further airport upgrades would likely be needed to accommodate three million passengers each year.

“There will probably need to be a bigger, more comfortable terminal for the passengers,” he said.

Economist Saul Eslake said the airport needed to seriously consider aerobridges to make passenger disembarkation more comfortable.

The increased traffic has caused flight-path adjustments, and some residents of Kellevie, Copping, Dunalley and Boomer Bay have complained about increased aircraft noise.

Meanwhile, Launceston Airport has been named Australia’s Major Airport of the Year for a third year in a row by the Australian Airports Association.

It’s the first time any Australian airport has won such a trifecta.

The airport's General Manager, Paul Hodgen, said: “I am thrilled that Launceston Airport has again been recognised for providing great customer experiences and quality operations, and it’s a testament to our staff and to the wider airport community.

“We are focused on putting the traveller first and that is evident in our terminal upgrades, which include improved dining options, enhanced seating, free Wi-Fi, together with additional toilet and shower facilities in the check-in hall.

“What makes the airport special is that our investment and upgrades clearly reflect elements of our beautiful region.

“We serve more than 1.3 million travellers annually and we make a real effort to create a sense of place at the airport for arriving visitors.”

He said the airport now saw itself as a brand champion for Tasmania.

"We are showcasing the character, products and produce that our wonderful State has to offer,” said Mr Hodgen.

“Airports are key drivers of regional economic prosperity, connecting communities and businesses with each other and the world.

“We are proud to act as the gateway to Launceston, facilitating tourism and freight opportunities to Australia’s major cities.”

Tasmania's third major airport at Devonport is working on a 15-year master plan with more frequent flights to a greater range of destinations as a priority.

Operator, TasPorts, is consulting with the State Government, Devonport and Latrobe councils, airlines, local industry, the community and other stakeholders on the plan.

Ideas being explored include the development of a commercial precinct around the airport, air freight opportunities, direct flights to Hobart and aviation training opportunities.

The airport's General Manager, Dave Race, said discussions with some airlines had started.

“The general feel is that they weren’t aware of the vibrancy and growth of the north-west coast,” he told The Advocate.

Mr Race said Devonport’s urban renewal project, Living City, provided great opportunities for future growth at the airport.

Devonport's Mayor, Steve Martin (who was sworn into the Australian Senate in February), said the airport had “huge potential” to become an entry point into the region.

“It has that potential definitely to be a destination point for tourists to come in and experience the fine foods and produce that we have and open up the entire Cradle Mountain region, but also the north-west and west coast,” he said.

Image courtesy of The Mercury

8 March 2018, Edition 192

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