Airport prepares for drop in passenger numbers

AS Gladstone Airport Corporation prepares for a major drop in passenger numbers with construction winding down on the city's projects, it is also looking at how to optimise the site to get bang for its buck.

Airport chief Phillip Cash believes a combination of improving the passenger experience, as well as efficiently using the airport's constricted land space, will ensure the effect of lesser numbers won't be devastating.

"We're very much trying to look to the future and plan, the forecasts show a plateau through this year to Christmas and then we'll see the decline, but the question is to what level?" he said.

"Last financial year we did 533,000 passengers, which is quite a lot.

"Two years ago it was about 200,000."

Mr Cash said passenger numbers had been tracking well, and were fairly consistent this year.

"There's no growth currently but that will keep us going until the end of the year," he said.

"Our view is that Gladstone has a great port now, it has rail, airport, expertise, housing…it's the right location with massive power and it has all the things ready for all sorts of other developments.

"I believe we'll see incremental growth in terms of industrial development."

Mr Cash said the airport corporation's plan was to maximise and optimise every physical part and every facility on the airport.

"Most airports have a mix of commercial and non-commercial equity, 90% of our income is aeronautically based in terms of passenger service fees, landing charges, aircraft parking charges, so that means it is a serious issue.

"If you lose passengers, it affects your income, and clearly that's what's going to happen here, so we have to look closely at how we can optimize use of land which is very scarce here."

This April Gladstone Regional Council announced it would take back $28 million in debt from the $65 million the GAC inherited in 2012.

Mr Cash said with the debt now at a level where the airport could cover the interest based on a long-term financial model, it was more manageable.

"Airports have to do cyclical major maintenance to the runways and taxi ways," he said.

"Bitumen breaks down and oxidises, especially in these places so every nine to 10 years you have to do this overlay.

"Given that we're going through a tough period, we have been putting as much money away as we can for those works in about the 2018/19."

Topics:  flights gladstone airport gladstone regional council industry

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