Perth Airport criticised for third runway delay and Terminal 2 issues

Perth Airport, seen from VH-VGH Airbus A320-232 of Jetstar on 8 April 2011.
Perth Airport, seen from VH-VGH Airbus A320-232 of Jetstar on 8 April 2011.
Photo © David Eyre

1 May 2013 © David Eyre

Perth Airport has been criticised by a number of parties in recent days, including the State Government, the ACCC and passengers using the airport.

State Government criticism on delays to third runway

Perth Airport has two runways (21/03 and 24/06), but as these intersect, they can only be used on an alternating basis. To provide sufficient capacity during peak traffic periods, airlines and resources companies are lobbying the airport to build a third runway. The third runway would be parallel to runway 21/03, to the east of Horrie Miller Drive.

Delays at Perth Airport are costing the State’s economy an estimated $72 million per year, excluding indirect costs and loss of production time for the resources industry. Perth Airport ranked 78th in the 2013 World Airport Awards (up from 80th the previous year) and was ranked lowest out of all airports in Australia.

Perth Airport had planned that discussions with airlines regarding construction of the third runway would begin in December 2012 and finish in April 2013, but now says the talks will take longer to conclude. The runway will cost an estimated $600million to build and Perth Airport requires support from the airlines before proceeding.

If the airlines support the call for a third runway, further studies and approvals would be required, and lessees of land in the location of the third runway will need to be notified to vacate prior to the third runway being constructed in late 2017.

ACCC criticism

On 30 April 2013, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released its annual Airport Monitoring Report for the 2011-12 financial year.

The report includes all major airports in Australia. With regards to Perth Airport, the report noted:

  • Perth Airport was the second worst airport in Australia during 2011/12 (Sydney was the worst)
  • The overall rating for quality of service at Perth Airport had fallen by 8.7%
  • Perth’s international terminal and airside services and facilities, which were already in the “poor” category, had fallen further.
  • Prices were generally lower for passengers, but car parking costs increased (car parking revenue constituted 7% of the airport’s total revenue).
  • Whilst Perth had experienced significant and unforecast growth, the airport was criticised for not responding quickly enough with investments in infrastructure, and that it will need to take more timely action to avoid future congestion and service issues.
  • Domestic passenger numbers were up by 20% per cent (mainly due to significant growth of the WA resources indutr- reflecting the surge of fly-in-fly out (FIFO) mine workers – while international passengers were up seven per cent.

The ACCC said that “Airports are a very important part of the economy and they must monitor more closely traffic trends.”

Passenger criticism of Terminal 2

Passengers have complained about Terminal 2’s car parking, road access, seating capacity and the long walk to waiting aircraft.

Perth Airport response

Perth Airport management say they are trying to keep up with unprecedented growth. Neither the airlines, the resources industry nor the Government, had foreseen that growth when the airport’s Master Plan was prepared in 2008. At that time, the global financial crisis had commenced and the government thought that Western Australia would go into recession.

Instead, the airport has experienced growth of 10 to 15% per annum over the past five years.

Regarding the ACCC report, Perth Airport pointed out that the report covered the 2011/12 period. Since then, Perth Airport has built new infrastructure in an effort to keep up with the phenomenal growth, part of a $750 million redevelopment program. This includes building a new domestic terminal (Terminal 2) and expanding and upgrading existing terminals (Terminals 1, 3 and 4), as well as adding new roads, car parks, aircraft taxiways and parking bays (the airport reported that it has built the equivalent of one new aircraft parking position per month for the past six years).

The Airport also said that it regularly meets with its stakeholders (airlines, resources companies and the government) to keep its forecasts updated and ensures that its redevelopment plans are adaptable to any changes in demand.

Regarding Terminal 2’s temporary issues, Perth Airport said that a new short-term carpark for Terminal 2 will open in July 2013. Seating capacity is increasing with a new lounge for Alliance Airlines already open and a Skywest Airlines (Virgin Australia Regional Airlines) lounge to open soon. To reduce the long walk to planes, the airport is working to improve usage of the aircraft parking bays located closest to Terminal 2.

David Eyre

President, Aviation Association of WA Inc

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