It's time we invested in more airports: Cameron Kusher

It's time we invested in more airports: Cameron Kusher
It's time we invested in more airports: Cameron Kusher

As someone who travels interstate regularly, one of my major frustrations (as I am sure it is with most passengers) is with airport delays.

Whether it is planes delayed in their take-off or coming home to Brisbane and having to circle over the Gold Coast for 30 minutes before we have clearance to land, it is one of the least enjoyable aspects of travel.

When you have a look at the growth in flight and passenger numbers over recent years and consider the lack of investment in additional airports or airport expansions it is no surprise why delays are virtually inevitable.

Data published by the Australian Department of Infrastructure and Transport highlights airport passenger figures, which shows why so many of our planes are leaving or arriving so late.

Politically, building new airports is a very sensitive issue, as highlighted by the fact that governments have been trying to agree on a site for a second Sydney airport for many years and we still appear no closer to a solution.

Preliminary data shows that the number of airport movements increased by 4.2% throughout 2012, with 1,429,497 flights over the year and 140,928,756 passengers.

The major capital city airports have seen flight volumes increase by 4.1% over the year and passenger number growth of 4.8%, while the number of flights has increased by 4.6% in non-major capital city airports with passenger growth of 2.7%.

The nation’s three busiest airports are those which service the three largest cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane).

These three airports accounted for 48.7% of all flights over the year and 61.7% of all passengers. When you include the fourth largest airport, Perth, 55.5% of all flights and 70.7% of all passengers went through these four airports.

Sydney airport alone accounted for 20.9% of all flights and 26.3% of all passengers.

Of course, these four cities service the most populous regions of the country and they account for about 56% of residents, highlighting that the number of flights is in-line with the population, however, there is a disproportionate amount of passenger movements through these four airports.

This is largely due to the fact that these four airports act as the major hubs for international flights and many intra-state connecting flights.

Over the past 20 years, the number of flights at a national level has increased at an average annual rate of 1.3% and the average annual rate of growth has been a much higher 2.7% over the same period across major capital city airports.

Over the period, flight numbers through Perth have increased at an average annual rate of 4.7% followed by 3.2%pa through Brisbane and 3.1%pa through Melbourne.

The reason why these airports are seeing so much traffic is because most of the major businesses are located in these cities and these airports also generally act as gateways to the regional areas of the state.

Despite the fact that air travel has surged over recent times, there has been very little investment in airport infrastructure. Outside of the expansion of Avalon Airport in Victoria as a second Melbourne airport there has been minimal action on secondary airports or development of additional runways.

The cost associated with delayed flights to businesses and the negative impact these delays potentially have on Australia’s tourism sector are, I believe, too important to ignore. The statistics show that air travel is continuing to grow, but airport capacities are failing to grow accordingly.

Let me know what you think. How important is it to provide additional major airports and to boost the capacity of our current airports? Is enough being done to cater to our future needs?

Cameron Kusher is senior research analyst at RP Data.

Cameron Kusher

Cameron Kusher

Cameron Kusher is senior research analyst at CoreLogic RP Data.

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