Route cuts clip airport’s wings after expansion
Karratha’s refreshed airport was officially opened to much political fanfare last year, but eight months later there are fewer carriers than before upgrade and still no international routes in sight.
Virgin Australia announced it would cut regional routes last week, Airnorth recently pulled out of Karratha, and City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long admitted attracting an international carrier in the current economic climate was a hard sell.
Despite this, Mr Long remained confident in the airport investment and optimistic for its future.
“While passenger numbers through Karratha have softened, they remain higher than they were in 2010 and above the base-case scenario that was proposed when the business case for the Karratha Airport expansion was developed,” he said.
“Given the dynamic nature of our region and stable population base, the City is continuing to push ahead for growth in international and interstate services.
“Starting new routes is a risk
and in the current climate, where airlines are facing some financial pressures, carriers are being risk-averse, however we are continuing to work with operators on a range of options for international and expanded services.”
Some travellers have reported nearly empty Virgin and Qantas flights in both directions.
Virgin Australia said cuts to its regional routes were driven by political uncertainty and low demand.
A company spokeswoman said in many cases these cuts had already come into effect.
“As flagged (last week), customer demand for flights on some regional routes has been affected by the resources downturn, so some capacity on those routes has been reduced,” she said.
“In Karratha, several Perth-Karratha return services per week were recently removed from the schedule to meet current levels of customer demand.
“Virgin Australia has been operating in a difficult environment, which has also affected Qantas.”
The spokeswoman said it was normal to have one leg of a flight to or from Karratha full, with the return flight coming back with fewer passengers.
Qantas was asked if it was considering similar measures, but failed to respond by time of print.