Route cuts clip air­port’s wings af­ter ex­pan­sion

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

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.

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