Fee hike fear as airport revamp nears completion
AIRLINE services have increased and the renovations at Cairns International Airport are nearly finished but proposed fee hikes could turn away visitors.
Three years of extensive renovations at Cairns Domestic Terminal are expected to be finished by next month.
Cairns airport chief executive officer Stephen Gregg said the overall terminal floor space had increased by 133 per cent to almost 43,000sq m.
“The domestic terminal redevelopment was undertaken to ensure our facilities had the capacity required to handle the three million passengers who currently pass through it each year and the increase on that number expected in the future,” he said.
The $200 million project should be worth the disruptions, with an upgraded departure lounge and new arrivals hall among the new developments.
Improved roads, car parking areas and security, as well as more retail shops are also part of the renovation project.
In recent months, a string of new flight services have been added to Cairns airport.
Cathay Pacific this week announced an extra service between Hong Kong and Cairns, boosting the carrier’s route to a daily service.
The move will add another 26,000 seats a year once it kicks off on November 21.
It comes in the wake of the return of direct Cairns-Osaka services, two new operators coming onto the Cairns-Auckland route and Qantas Link’s direct flights to Port Moresby.
Budget airline Jetstar recently announced it would relaunch direct services between Cairns and Osaka.
That was followed up by the promise of three new weekly flights between Auckland and Cairns from April next year, which will add 26,000 seats annually to the route.
Mr Gregg said the easing of pressures generated by the global financial crisis had boosted the ability of airlines to expand services to destinations such as Cairns.
He also signalled the possibility of more overseas airlines stopping at the airport.
“Cairns Airport Pty Ltd (CAPL) continually liaises with airlines to ensure that we are on their radar as they explore opportunities for new routes and expanded services,” he said.
“The Federal Government’s Aviation White Paper included incentives for foreign airlines to stopover at regional airports and CAPL is working to maximise the benefits this activity can bring to Cairns.”
Jetstar will join Pacific Blue and Air New Zealand in operating direct services between the destinations.
Mr Gregg said additional aviation access into Cairns would naturally translate to increased visitors to the Douglas region.
“The New Zealand market has shown good interest in the Port Douglas-Daintree area in the past so more direct services from Auckland should be very positive,” he said.
But an impending increase in landing charges at Cairns airport would most likely lead to more expensive airfares, potentially scaring off tourists.
If a Federal Government air traffic control pricing system is kept in place, a 55 per cent fee hike will come into place.
Mr Gregg said airport management was pushing for concessions to help negate the impact of location-specific charges with the support of Labor’s federal Member for Leichhardt Jim Turnour and industry organisations.
“(Concessions) will help to negate the impact of location specific charges on the region’s tourism and development industries which flow through to our regional economy,” he said.
“Meetings have been held with (Jim) Turnour and Minister (Anthony) Albanese to discuss the matter in detail.
“CAPL is now awaiting the outcome of the submission process.”
If the push is unsuccessful, the
fee hike would make Cairns the most costly of any major airport in the country. The next stage of the airport’s redevelopment, the refurbishment of the international terminal departures lounge, will begin in October.
The new-look domestic terminal will be officially opened on September 29.