by Kassem Seedat (Specialist Consultant - Legal and Commercial)
After having awarded $1.25 million to 13 regional airports in the first round, the Western Australian State government has now awarded a further $1.36 million to 12 airports in regional Western Australia through the Regional Airports Development Scheme (“RADS”) second round grants for 2017-2019.
These funds are to be used for amongst other items airport terminal upgrade plans, fencing and lighting.
Two significant projects are:
- Shark Bay (Monkey Mia) Airport in the Gascoyne region will use the $273,005 RADS award to widen its runway, thus allowing Regional Express Airlines (“Rex”) to operate there from mid-2018; and
- Albany Airport in the Great Southern region is to use the $236,793 awarded to improve its drainage infrastructure.
As noted, Rex is to start 12 weekly flight services between Perth and Shark Bay in July 2018, having been announced as the successful tenderer and only operator for this route in February 2018. This is in addition to Rex having served the Perth-Albany and Perth-Esperance sectors for the past 2 years as sole operator on these State Government regulated monopoly routes.
Albany Airport is one of 5 in the State which the State Government has earmarked as potential sites to host the Qantas Group Pilot Academy, which Qantas announced in February 2018 that it would establish in 2019 in regional Australia to train an initial 100 cadets. The chosen location will need to meet selection criteria regarding infrastructure, minimum flying day a year and overall facilities, with 8 June 2018 being the closing date for proposed site entries to be received.
The State Government on 18 May 2018 announced a deal with Qantas, regional bodies and Broome International Airport to subsidise the cost of a 1-year trial of a daily Friday-Sunday Perth-Broome return service starting with one-way fares of $179 in the low and $199 in high season. Qantas is to use an undeployed Airbus 320. It’s hoped that the additional 29,400 rebated seats a year will increase tourism to the Broome area and allow Broome residents to travel to Perth more cheaply. Tourism WA is now keen to enter into similar agreements with Virgin and Airnorth across the Kimberley region.
The State Government has been shown to be sensitive to the high cost of air services for regional communities: it endorsed most recommendations of the Final Report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Regional Airfares which was tabled in State Parliament on 30 November 2017 and is to form the basis for the State Government’s framework State Aviation Strategy to be released in 2020.
Finally, Western Australians are the first in the country to be able to fly to and from Australia in the newest variant of the Boeing 787 aircraft, the 787-10, with launch customer Singapore Airlines starting return sector flights on 7 May 2018 for one of its several daily flights on the busy Singapore-Perth route. Singapore is WA’s third-largest source of visitors, so the suggested 38,000 increase in seat availability on the route is welcome news for local tourism operators.