Council considers passenger flights for airport

The return of regional passenger aircraft to the Illawarra airport will be considered by Council at tomorrow night’s meeting.

Councillors will be asked to discuss a report by consultants engaged to conduct market research into the feasibility of a regular Regional Passenger Transport (RPT) to determine whether there is a significant regional demand and whether it would be viable into the long term.

The catchment area of the airport has a population base of approximately 300,000 people and includes the South Coast, Southern Highlands and Illawarra region. It is the largest metropolitan area in Australia without its own RPT service.

“Councillors need to understand whether there is a strong business case for a regional passenger service from our airport which would also have benefits to the region and positive implications for the state,” said Mayor Marianne Saliba.

“Passenger flights from within the Illawarra could be expected to significantly cut travel time for people south of Sydney wanting to fly to some popular Australian destinations and reduce road congestion and pressure on the state infrastructure,” Cr Saliba said.

“If they were to be established, these flights could provide a direct link from other regional and metropolitan centres of Australia to the Illawarra, South Coast and Southern Highlands and may create more tourism and employment opportunities,” she said.

In 2008, Qantas stopped operating its RPT service between the Illawarra and Melbourne after three years due to rising fuel costs and a shift in the local workforce demands.

“The pre-existence of regional passenger flights from our airport indicates there is an existing level of acceptance in our community Cr Saliba said.

The report to Council is commercial in confidence and will be considered at the meeting on Tuesday 7 February. Business papers are available on the website.