Fee hike fear as air­port re­vamp nears com­ple­tion

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - TOURISM TALK - HOLLY ROBERT­SON

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.

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