Interstate flight viability concern

Rebecca Parish, BUSSELTON DUNSBOROUGH TIMESBusselton Dunsborough Times
The West logo

Discussion about Busselton Regional Airport has seen airlines indicate interest in interstate flights ahead of a Commonwealth funding decision announcement later this month, according to the City of Busselton.

However, former Ansett Australia WA retail manager and tourism industry professional Leon Ryan said he didn't believe the airport would attract interstate and international flights.

He said the loss of Virgin Australia's weekly regular passenger transport flight last month because of a lack of passenger numbers was also a major concern, adding the only way to maintain an operation was to maximise revenue and reduce costs.

Mr Ryan cited issues such as "hubbing", where airlines fly from regional locations to major ports to consolidate passenger numbers, and airport infrastructure such as passenger check-in, customs and immigration, staffing, public transport and hire cars as major issues with the Busselton airport.

Mr Ryan said recent comments in the _Times _ by Augusta-Margaret River Tourism Association and Busselton Chamber of Commerce representatives, which said the cancellation of Virgin Australia's service from Perth to Busselton would have no impact on tourism, highlighted a lack of knowledge of how airlines operated, especially the airline operators the region was trying to entice.

"For our local tourism and industry leaders to extol the virtues of direct flights from both interstate and overseas ports says that in-depth research is yet to be completed," he said.

The West Australian's Aviation Editor Geoffrey Thomas told the Times other issues included the current curfew, which would "most certainly" need to be lifted for the airport to succeed, and the current size of the runway.

He said flights from Perth to Busselton would always be difficult because of the proximity to Perth, and the dual-carriage freeway, while an international connection would be harder to achieve, as had been seen at regional airports such as tourist mecca Broome .

But Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said it was "unwise" to compare the potential of Busselton Regional Airport with the airport in Broome.

"Broome is an unregulated route which supports a base of 8000 people," she said.

"Busselton Regional Airport will be supporting the whole South West Region, a population of more than 180,000 people, connecting with the Eastern States."

Busselton Airport currently allows for flights between 6am and 11pm only and City chief executive Mike Archer said rules "may need to be reviewed", adding the City had been working with the Environmental Protection Authority.

Mr Archer said as part of the business case for the Busselton Airport upgrade, a series of studies had been done.

Mr Ryan said while the City had said interest had been indicated, it still left questions over which airline had indicated interest and if it meant they were intending to come if the airport was redeveloped.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails