11 October 2012 © David Eyre
In response to recent pressure to ease congestion at Perth Airport, CEO Brad Geatches announced yesterday (10 October 2012) that the airport is in discussions with airlines on whether they support financial contributions towards a third runway. This is in addition to other short term measures announced last week, including increased aircraft movement charges during busy periods.
Increased peak time take-off and landing charges
Perth Airport has proposed increased aircraft movement charges during peak times (currently a minimum of $205), in order to encourage flights during less busy periods.
Many of the resource charter (FIFO) flights leave Perth between 5.30am – 8.30am, returning from the mine sites later in the morning, before another wave of flights in the afternoon. Delays of 30 minutes have become more frequent in the morning peak period between 5.30am and 8.30am.
The resources industry has some concerns that slot changes may impact worker rostering, fatigue management and costs.
The slot system will still be regulated, to ensure that regular passenger flights were not disadvantaged.
Perth-based corporate jet operators are not happy with the proposed changes to the slot system, as corporate jets will be treated the same as bigger airliners. This will affect their business by forcing them to wait up to 24 hours for a take-off slot, eliminating the advantages provided by corporate aircraft. One operator said that even when booking a slot 24 hours in advance, they still suffered a two-hour delay.
Perth Airport’s current runways cross each other, and this restricts the number of aircraft movements.
The airport recently prepared the concept design, timeframes and cost estimates to construct a third runway, which is expected to cost $600 million. The third runway would take four years to construct, and will be 2,700 metres long, located east of and parallel to Horrie Miller Drive and the existing runway 03/21. If the airlines agree on funding the runway, construction could start in late 2013 and be completed by late 2017.
On 9 October 2012, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told the National Press Club in Canberra that he backed calls for a third runway at Perth Airport, as congestion and longer taxiing times were adding substantially to the airline’s costs.
On 10 October, Western Australian Transport Minister Troy Buswell told ABC radio that it was “completely unacceptable” that Perth Airport’s plan to the year 2025 didn’t include a third runway. He said that there was “a rapidly emerging issue around access to the runway”, but Perth Airport had spent $750 million on new and upgraded terminals and more parking. “It is no good building new terminals if you can’t take off and land,” he said. “The public will expect the airport to make announcements around the construction and access to third runway in the not too distant future.” Mr Buswell says that Perth Airport congestion is costing the WA economy millions of dollars a year – a single one-hour flight delay could cost the resources industry up to $80,000. The airport is vital to the State’s economy due to Perth’s isolation and the remote locations of many resource operations. People are being forced to arrive in Perth much earlier than necessary in order to attend scheduled meetings and others are forced to drive to regional destinations because of Perth Airport delays.
In its defence, Perth Airport said that Master Plans are a snapshot in time, produced once every five years in accordance with the Airports Act 1996.
Mr Geatches said that the last Master Plan was published in 2009 – in the middle of the global financial crisis. “Governments, airlines and the resource sector all dramatically underestimated the growth and it should come as no surprise, therefore, that Perth Airport underestimated the demand,” he said.
Since 2008, Perth Airport has experienced 40% growth in annual passenger numbers to 13.5 million passengers, including all FIFO charters. Annual aircraft movements increased by 32% to 142,000. Perth Airport’s Master Plans are issued every five years , and the next Master Plan would be issued in 2014.
Mr Geatches also said that inefficient airspace design was also partly responsible for the congestion issues. Perth Airport is surrounded on many sides by military restricted airspace zones which impact the efficiency of civilian air traffic movements, but some experts believe that airspace capacity could be better utilised with improved procedures. Air Traffic Control provider Airservices Australia regularly meets with stakeholders to review its procedures.