Flying high: Passenger numbers soar for some, others decline

NUMBERS CRUNCH: There's four airports in the Central West, but passenger numbers are not increasing at all locations. Photo: FILE
NUMBERS CRUNCH: There's four airports in the Central West, but passenger numbers are not increasing at all locations. Photo: FILE

AIRLINE passenger numbers across the Central West may be increasing in some centres, while one is reporting a decrease due to flight changes.

Every month thousands of people fly into the region’s four airports which are located in Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange and Parkes.

So far this financial year, Parkes has recorded the highest increase in passenger numbers – from 12,774 in July-November 2017 to 16,379 during the same period this year – an increase of 28.2 per cent.

There has also been an increase in passengers flying in and out of Orange Airport so far this financial year.

Orange City Council figures show 35,920 people used the airport from July-November this year which is up by nearly 6000 passengers on the year before – an increase of 20.1 per cent.

In Dubbo, however, passenger numbers have been impacted by a number of factors, Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields said.

Numbers have dropped from 93,280 in July-November 2017, to 88,955 during this same period this year – a drop of 4.9 per cent.

“While numbers are down slightly compared the previous year, there are a number of factors involved in that, including the demise of JetGo, the loss of the Cobar service and the continuing drought,” Cr Shields said.

Meanwhile, Bathurst Regional Council director of engineering services Darren Sturgiss while could not confirm how many passenger numbers there were at that city’s airport, he said it was one of the busiest in the Central West.

“On average Bathurst Airport caters for around 20 000 passenger movements per annum, with the Regular Passenger Transport (RPT) provided by Regional Express,” he said.

Flying future in Dubbo

Cr Shields said he expects passenger numbers will increase in Dubbo thanks in part to a new agreement with Fly Corporate.

JetGo ceased flights from Dubbo to Brisbane and Melbourne in June. Council worked hard to find another carrier and was able to get an agreement with Fly Corporate. Flights to Brisbane resumed in August with flights to Melbourne restarting a month later,” he said.

“Early in the new year, the Cobar and Western NSW service will be reintroduced back into the market.”

Cr Shields said the community does need to support the services to Newcastle, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne.

“I have said all along that these services are ‘use it or lose it’ – if the demand isn’t there from the community, they could disappear,” he said.

“Numbers for Brisbane are strong [and] the weekend service to Melbourne is only new to the market and numbers need to build, but it takes time for the travelling public to reinvest and trust they will get to the destinations on time.

“The airport is working with the carrier for the Canberra and Newcastle routes and increase awareness within the community to increase passenger numbers.”

Flying future in Parkes

PARKES Shire Council mayor Ken Keith said council had a long-standing partnership with Regional Express Airlines and the $99 REX Community Fare to Sydney introduced in January 2018 would be in effect until June 30, 2022

“Since its introduction, the Community Fare scheme has greatly benefited our community and has significantly enhanced accessibility between Sydney and our region,” he said.

“We have experienced a 17 per cent increase in passenger numbers for the period of January to June, compared to the same period in 2017.”

Following on from a $3 million redevelopment of the Parkes Airport terminal, Cr Keith said council was currently carrying out further works to facility with Stage 2 of the Airport Business Park project underway.

Flying future in Orange

ORANGE City Council mayor Reg Kidd said said Fly Corporate’s arrival plus the REX Community Fare scheme with council had made a “big difference.”

He said increased business activity in Orange with developments for the Department of Primary Industries, the new private medical complex on Forest Road and other sites was leading to increased use.

A spokeswoman for REX told the Central Western Daily that: “At this stage there are no plans to implement further services however Rex continually monitors network growth and sustainability.” Read more.

Flying future in Bathurst

AIRPORT upgrade works that commenced in 2015 at Bathurst Airport remain ongoing, thanks to $2.5 million that was given to council from the Federal Government's National Stronger Region Fund (NSRF) that was matched dollar-for-dollar by council.

Upgrades have include a soon-to-be-completed parallel taxiway and apron works to provide more parking options for larger aircraft.

In 2016, 10.2 kilometres of perimeter fencing to the airport boundary was replaced with 2.5m high fauna /security fencing.

Further works currently being designed and to be constructed as part of the NSRF grant includes sewer reticulation to the airport, additional taxiway and hangar sites.

Council director of engineering services Darren Sturgiss said he was “pleased” with the provision of passenger services provided by REX and council had not approached Fly Corporate to seek any additional services or routes.

Who flies where?

Regional Express (REX) services all four Central West airports while Fly Corporate flies into Dubbo and Orange. Additionally, QANTAS also services the Dubbo Airport.