Air passenger numbers to double within two decades

THE number of air passenger movements through Australian capital and non-capital city airports is predicted to double to 279 million within the next two decades, according to the latest research report from the latest Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

The report, 'Air passenger movements through capital and non-capital city airports to 2030–31', was released by Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese at the Australian Airports Association National Convention in Melbourne last week.

According to the Minister, the report is a key resource for the planning of airport infrastructure into the future, and the communities around them.

In addition to capital city airports, for the first time, the report also includes statistics on some non-capital city airports including Newcastle, Cairns, Gold Coast, Townsville and Launceston.

The number of air passenger movements through all Australian airports is projected to grow strongly over the next twenty years, largely due to a positive economic outlook for Australia and its trading partners.

Key statistics from the report include:

  • Passenger numbers are forecast to increase by 3.7 per cent a year over the forecast period, from 135.1 million in 2010–11 to 279.2 million in 2030–31;
  • Domestic and international air passenger movements are projected to increase by 3.3 and 4.9 per cent a year over the same period to 207.1 and 72.1 million, respectively, in 2030–31; and
  • The number of air passenger movements through capital city and non-capital city airports are expected to grow by 3.8 and 3.2 per cent a year over the same period to 230.5 and 48.8 million, respectively, in 2030–31.

Of the capital city airports, passenger numbers are forecast to grow by:

  • 3.6 per cent a year in Sydney to 72.0 million in 2030–31;
  • 3.9 per cent a year in Melbourne to 60.4 million in 2030–31;
  • 4.2 per cent a year in Brisbane to 45.1 million in 2030–31;
  • 3.1 per cent a year in Adelaide to 13.5 million in 2030–31;
  • 4.4 per cent a year in Perth to 25.7 million in 2030–31;
  • 3.0 per cent a year in Hobart to 3.5 million in 2030–31;
  • 4.2 per cent a year in Darwin to 4.2 million in 2030–31; and
  • 3.3 per cent a year in Canberra to 6.1 million in 2030–31.

Non capital city airports are also expected to see growth, with Newcastle projected to increase by 3.1 per cent a year to 2.2 million in 2030–31; Cairns to increase by 3.7 per cent a year to 8.0 million in 2030–31; and the Gold Coast to increase by 4.4 per cent a year to 13.1 million in 2030–31.

The forecasts were developed using expected growth in population, real income levels, exchange rates, real airfares and travel and accommodation prices.

Speaking at the convention, Mr Albanese said all the evidence suggests that airport passenger growth will only continue into the future, adding that significant private investment will be required to meet demand, particularly to upgrade the nation's gateway airports.

The Minister said almost $9 billion in necessary upgrades and improvements are in the pipeline over the next decade but stated that airport financing is becoming more complex in the post-GFC environment, while the scale of projects is increasing too.

According to Mr Albanese, major developments planned or under construction include new terminals in Perth, Melbourne and Canberra and a new parallel runway in Brisbane. Melbourne is also in the process of planning for a proposed additional parallel runway.

He said the Australian Government is also doing what it can to address problems at airports that involve the broader community and noted that a growing problem is congestion on roads surrounding airports.

"We have in place at all our major airports Planning Coordination Forums so that development can better align with surrounding transport and social networks," Mr Albanese said.

Mr Albanese also took the opportunity to slam the NSW Government's "absurd" decision to approve a new housing development at Tralee, "right under Canberra's flight path."

The Minister said the approval kills off Premier Barry O'Farrell's plan for Canberra to be Sydney's second airport and also goes against the advice of the NSW Planning Assessment Commission.

"This decision defies common sense and I have written to NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard to ask him to reconsider," Mr Albanese said.

"Canberra Airport is unique among our capital cities in that its flight path is free of housing development allowing it to operate 24 hours a day, curfew-free.

"This places it in great position for growth, particularly for the increasingly lucrative freight market," Mr Albanese said.

The Minister said the Australian Government was continuing to investigate the potential of Wilton as a second airport for the Sydney basin, adding that Sydney needs a second airport sooner rather than later.

He said this is demonstrated by the fact that Sydney is missing out on its share of international traffic, with Melbourne's international traffic last year growing by more than 7 per cent—twice that of Sydney.

"The Joint Study on Aviation Capacity for the Sydney Region found that by 2060 Australia would miss out on around $34 billion in GDP and around 78,000 jobs if we can't deliver more airport capacity for Sydney," Mr Albanese said.

More information on the report, 'BITRE Research Report 133—Air passenger movements through capital and non–capital city airports to 2030–31', is available from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics website at <>.

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