“If you build it, they will come”
That’s the message from Griffith Business Chamber, who say that installing security at Griffith Airport will enable more airlines to come here – meaning flights to cities others than Sydney and, eventually, lower prices.
“Until we have security we will not attract new airlines for Griffith to Melbourne or any other important routes. We need to do everything possible to attract new like JetGo, Airnorth, Qantas link etc.,” Paul Pierotti, chamber president said.
Federal government regulation states aircraft weighing more than 20 tonnes warrant security screening at regional airports.
At present, Regional Express (REX) – the only airline to operate passenger aircraft out of Griffith – use a Saab 340B aircraft which is below the 20 tonne threshold.
The chamber have called on Griffith City Council to prioritise funding to upgrade airport security, so that carriers operating bigger aircraft will be encouraged to fly here.
Griffith mayor John Dal Broi says council has looked into the issue and don’t see it as a winner.
“Council has investigated the costs to install security screening at Griffith City Airport and capital costs would be in the order of $1 million, with the annual security contract estimated to be at $500,000," Councillor Dal Broi said.
“The only viable funding option is to pass the costs on to the carriers servicing the airport by way of increased ticket prices on airfares, however it should be noted that Regional Express (REX) has no requirement for security screening and would be extremely reluctant to utilise the service, or pass this on to the passengers directly.
“I, along with the General Manager, have held several meetings and discussions with prospective carriers, some have planes that require security screening but one of which has aircraft in their fleet that does not require security screening as the planes are below the 20 tonne limit.
“At this stage, no carrier has looked at committing to taking on the route and being in competition with the current carrier as they have indicated that passenger traffic cannot sustain more than one carrier.”
Rob Robillard of agricultural aerial service Aerocare also doubts the idea would be a success.
“I think we’re lucky to have REX. There’s only a limited number of people who want fly to out of here. We had flights to Melbourne before and that wasn’t sustainable.”
Mr Pierotti counters by saying considerable growth in the number of agribusiness (out of Sydney) wanting to do business in Griffith will fuel demand.
“It could open the doors to potential hub and spoke routes like Toowoomba – Griffith – Melbourne return, or Dubbo - Griffith – Melbourne, who knows?”
“Hopefully, with opening up the market to competition, fares could in fact be cheaper.”