News Briefs

    Australia’s fastest growing domestic route for 2016 was Hamilton Island–Sydney

    Australia‘s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics reported (Mar-2017) the following routes experienced the greatest percentage increase in scheduled domestic commercial air traffic in 2016:

    • Hamilton Island–Sydney: +16.0%;
    • Ayers Rock (Uluru)–Sydney: +15.5%;
    • Brisbane–Hamilton Island: +13.1%;
    • Hobart–Sydney: +12.9%;
    • Sunshine Coast–Sydney: +12.0%.

    Brisbane-Gladstone shrinks most of any Australian domestic route in 2016; resources routes suffer

    Australia‘s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics reported (Mar-2017) the following routes experienced the greatest percentage decreases in scheduled domestic commercial air traffic in 2016:

    • Brisbane–Gladstone: -18.3%;
    • Karratha–Perth: -18.2%;
    • Brisbane–Moranbah: -15.4%;
    • Perth–Port Hedland: -13.1%.

    Aerocare to investigate reports on split shift scheduling

    Aerocare stated (21-Mar-2017) it will investigate media reports against its workers scheduling system in regards to a split shift method used (ABC/Sydney Morning Herald, 20-Mar-2017). Reports claimed that Aerocare’s Sydney based ground handling contract workers are resting at the airport in between shifts as they are given 4-6 hour breaks which, for some, is insufficient time and financially unreasonable to travel home for a proper rest. These claims were first raised by the Transport Workers Union that is negotiating with Aerocare for the removal of split shifts among other conditions.

    Sydney Airport remains Australia’s busiest domestic airport in 2016

    Australia‘s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics reported (Mar-2017) Sydney remained Australia’s busiest domestic airport in 2016. Key airport traffic highlights include:

    • Sydney Airport:
      • Passengers: 26.9 million, +3.8% year-on-year;
      • Cargo: 10.4 million tonnes, +13.3%
    • Melbourne International Airport:
      • Passengers: 24.8 million, +3.2%;
      • Cargo: 12.4 million tonnes, +24.0%.
    • Brisbane International Airport:
      • Passengers: 17.1 million, +1.7%;
      • Cargo: 6.7 million, +25.8%.
    • Regional airports: 24.0 million passengers, +1.3%;
      • Brisbane Wellcamp passengers: +71.7%;
      • Roma Airport passengers: -41.1%.

    Mount Isa Airport completes USD2.7m car park upgrade

    Mount Isa Airport completed (20-Mar-2017) car park upgrade works, adding 60 additional parking spots, access control gates, CCTV cameras and installed solar panel shade structures above the long term car park, rental car park and pedestrian walkways. Airport COO Kevin Gill stated: “To mitigate congestion at the front of the terminal, the current pick-up/drop-off area has been relocated to the short-term car park”. As previously reported by CAPA, Queensland Airports Limited invested over AUD3.5 million (USD2.7 million) towards the upgrade which aims to improve security, passenger experience and offset approximately 374 tonnes of CO2 per year. Following the upgrade, a slight increase in car park price rates will  take effect to “be more in line with other regional Australian airports of a similar size” said Mr Gill.

    Australia’s BITRE domestic pax up 3% to 58.9m in 2016

    Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) reports (21-Mar-2017) the following traffic highlights for Australian domestic airlines in 2016:

    • Passenger numbers: 58.9 million, +2.5% year-on-year;
    • Top ten domestic city pairs:
      • Melbourne-Sydney: 8.9 million, +3.4%;
      • Brisbane-Sydney: 4.7 million, +4.1%;
      • Brisbane-Melbourne: 3.5 million, +4.2%;
      • Gold Coast-Sydney: 2.7 million, +3.3%;
      • Adelaide-Melbourne: 2.4 million, +3.6%;
      • Melbourne-Perth: 2.1 million, -3.1%;
      • Gold Coast-Melbourne: 2.0 million, +8.5%;
      • Adelaide-Sydney: 1.9 million, +2.2%;
      • Perth-Sydney: 1.8 million, -0.4%;
      • Hobart-Melbourne: 1.6 million, +4.2%;
    • Load factor: 77.8%, +1.3ppts;
      • Melbourne-Sydney: 83.6%, +2.3ppts;
      • Brisbane-Sydney: 81.6%, +1.7ppts;
      • Brisbane-Melbourne: 80.4%, +3.0ppts;
      • Gold Coast-Sydney: 86.0%, +2.5ppts;
      • Adelaide-Melbourne: 79.0%, +1.1ppts;
      • Melbourne-Perth: 80.9%, +3.5ppts;
      • Gold Coast-Melbourne: 83.1%, -0.4ppt;
      • Adelaide-Sydney: 80.8%, +2.5ppts;
      • Perth-Sydney: 81.2%, +2.6ppts;
      • Hobart-Melbourne: 79.3%, -1.0ppt;
    • Seats: 77.3 million, +0.6%.

    ACCC grants interim approval for Virgin Australia, Hong Kong Airlines and HNA Group alliance

    Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) granted (20-Mar-2017) interim authorisation to the alliance framework agreement application made by Virgin Australia, HNA Group, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express Airways.

    The parties sought:

    • Reciprocal codeshare agreements between Virgin Australia, Hong Kong Airlines and HNA Group (including Hainan Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines);
    • Special prorate agreements between the primary alliance partners;
    • Reciprocal frequent flyer participation and lounge access agreement between Velocity Frequent Flyer and Fortune Wings Club;
    • Joint route planning and economic risk sharing agreements for operations to/from Hong Kong and China between the primary alliance partners;
    • Flight interruption manifest agreements;
    • A reciprocal staff and duty travel agreement;
    • Any other agreements required to give effect to the alliance framework agreement.


    In granting interim authorisation, the ACCC considers that:

    • The agreement appears likely to result in some public benefit and limited public detriment;
    • There is benefit in granting interim authorisation as allowing the applicants to enter the agreement will:
      • Facilitate earlier launch of new Australia-Hong Kong services by Virgin Australia;
      • Support existing services between Australia and mainland China and Australia and Hong Kong, as well as domestic services operated by the applicants, by allowing marketing/selling services other alliance partners sooner than would otherwise be the case.


    The applicants required interim authorisation to:

    • Ensure Virgin Australia is able to launch proposed new services in 2017;
    • Allow Virgin Australia to support existing and planned services operated by Hong Kong Airlines and HNA Group.

    Palmerston North Airport forecast to generate 20% more dividends in FY2017/18 due to landing charges

    Palmerston North Airport raised NZD322,000 (USD227,091) in dividends for Palmerston North City Council in FY2016/17, with this expected to increase by 20% in FY2017/18 due to an agreement to raise landing charges according to airport board chairman Murray Georgel (Stuff, 20-Mar-2017). The airport is forecast to generate a dividend of NZD1 million (USD705,253) by FY2019/20.

    Palmerston North Airport to open new regional lounge in May-2017

    Palmerston North Airport is scheduled to open a new regional lounge in May-2017, providing three times more space than before (Stuff, 20-Mar-2017). This upgrade is part of a wider expansion project that includes the addition of 110 car park spaces, introduction of a valet parking service and a new takeaway café. The airport will also consider a proposal by Green Party-endorsed councillor Brent Barrett to work towards carbon neutral certification by 2019.

    Australian scheduled domestic travel up 2.5%

    Australia‘s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics released (Mar-2017) its overview of domestic commercial aviation activity for 2016:

    • Passengers: 58.9 million, +2.5% year-on-year;
    • RPKs: 69.3 billion, +2.2%;
    • ASKs: 89.1, +0.4%;
    • Available seats: 77.3 million, +0.6%;
    • Load factor: 77.8%, +1.3ppts;
    • Aircraft movements: 6,388,000, +0.7%.

    Rex to remove some Saab 340s from service as precaution following propeller loss on flight ZL768

    Regional Express (Rex) released (20-Mar-2017) additional details on Albury-Sydney Flight ZL768. The Saab 340 had its right hand propeller separate from its shaft approximately 25km south west of Sydney, when approaching to land at Sydney Airport. The propeller was found to have sheared off at the shaft and all the fittings at the main assembly were intact. While waiting for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to determine the root cause of the incident Rex has decided to immediately remove from service all propeller gear boxes and shafts of the same series as that of the incident for further inspection and testing if warranted.

    NT Airports CEO urges government to drive tourist demand before vying for more air services

    Northern Territory Airports (NT Airports) chief executive Ian Kew noted the state government need to first “drive demand by creating fantastic experiences” and promote the region before vying for more international air services (NT News, 20-Mar-2017). Mr Kew admitted: “We’ve got empty seats in the current international carriers so putting another international carrier on tomorrow is not going to be that helpful”. As previously reported by CAPA, the airport authority is in talks with Chinese carriers to open routes from China to NT.

    Northern Territory Airports CEO ‘hopeful’ for China service ‘in next couple of years or so’

    Northern Territory Airports chief executive Ian Kew is “hopeful” of securing a “mainland Chinese service in the next couple of years or so” (NT News, 20-Mar-2017). Mr Kew note “Australia’s two biggest markets are Chinese and New Zealand tourists… But we don’t have direct services to either of those destinations”. The airport is reportedly in talks with Virgin Australia and China Southern Airlines as potential airline partners to operate these routes.

    Australian domestic air traffic up 2% in 2016, aircraft movements shrink 0.3%

    Australia‘s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics reported (Mar-2017) Australian domestic carriers, including non-scheduled and charter carriers, handled 61.3 million passengers in 2016, an increase of 2.0% year-on-year. Aircraft movements decreased 0.3% for the period.

    NSW urges federal government for more regional service slots at Sydney Airport

    New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance urged the Federal Government to amend Sydney Airport’s Demand Management Act to improve slot allocation for regional services (Sydney Morning Herald, 20-Mar-2017). Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester responded stating: “If the NSW Ministers think they have answers to the complex legislative arrangements concerning Sydney Airport traffic” that can increase regional slots while maintaining aircraft noise levels, “I’m happy to work with them”.

    Melbourne–Sydney Australia’s busiest route in 2016, with 8.9m pax and growth of 3.4%

    Australia‘s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics reported (Mar-2017) the following highlights for the busiest scheduled domestic commercial air routes for 2016:

    • Melbourne–Sydney: 8.9 million, +3.4% year-on-year;
    • Brisbane–Sydney: 4.66 million, +4.1%;
    • Brisbane–Melbourne: 3.5 million, +4.2%.

    Qantas confirms WiFi streaming content partnership with Stan

    Qantas, via its official blog, confirmed (20-Mar-2017) a deal with Stan as a content partner for its in-flight WiFi streaming video on demand service. Stan will be available from mid-Apr-2017. Qantas plans to roll out the WiFi service across its domestic Boeing 737 and A330 fleets around six months after initial availability. Other confirmed content partners are Foxtel, Netflix and Spotify.

    Solomon Airlines resumes Santa Cruz service following resolution of land disputes

    Solomon Airlines resumed (20-Mar-2017) twice-weekly Honiara-Santa Cruz service, following its suspension on 14-Mar-2017 due to land dispute issues. A Solomon Airlines spokesperson said the decision to resume the flights followed assurances from Santa Cruz landowners and the Santa Cruz Police advising that landowners desired a full resumption of services as soon as possible.

    Qantas confirms six month lag between initial WiFi SVOD service and full roll out

    Qantas, via its official blog, confirmed (20-Mar-2017) it will start operations with its WiFi streaming video on demand (SVOD) service on commercial scheduled flights by the end of Mar-2017 “once we’ve completed some fine-tuning”. The carrier is working to reduce lag or buffering while streaming. The service will initially be limited to a single aircraft. Qantas is “deliberately waiting about six months before rolling it out to the rest of our domestic A330 and [Boeing] 737 aircraft” as it continues to test and adjust the system.

    Rex: ‘some minor disruptions’ to operations after grounding five aircraft over safety concerns

    Regional Express (Rex) stated it has grounded five Saab 340 turboprops following an incident involving the propeller of an aircraft shearing off during approach to Sydney Airport (AP/Australian Aviation, 20-Mar-2017). The carrier stated the removal of the aircraft from service is expected to create “some minor disruptions” for between one and two days. Two of the five aircraft operate with Pel-Air in freighter configuration.

    Virgin Australia announces Melbourne-Hong Kong service from 05-Jul-2017

    Virgin Australia, via its official Twitter account, announced (21-Mar-2017) plans to launch Melbourne-Hong Kong service from 05-Jul-2017, subject to regulatory approvals. Bookings will be open from 22-Mar-2017.