The operators of Darwin Airport will invest up to $75 million to upgrade its terminal facilities, a move welcomed by the major airlines as domestic and international competition hots up.
The project will see three new aircraft parking bays, some 11,000 square metres of additional floor space and investment by the major airlines in new lounge facilities that aims to double capacity of the airport.
“In simple terms we will be able to handle twice the number of passengers and planes in any particular busy hour than we can today,” Darwin CEO Ian Kew said.
“We’re very excited to be embarking on such a major development to our airport, the biggest in our history,” Kew said. “The expansion will increase capacity dramatically, enabling us to improve efficiencies for our airline customers and terminal operators; and improve the travelling experience for our passengers.”
The developments are in response to average annual growth of 8.5 per cent over the last six years, a rate set to increase in coming years in line with national forecasts and competition already increasing rapidly. In addition to rising domestic competition, Air Asia Indonesia recently announced it would resume services to Darwin. This comes after Philippine Airlines announced in March it will introduce daily flights to Manila.
Virgin Australia has welcomed the investment, which it says will transform the experience for passengers travelling through the airport as the Virgin Australia check-in area moves to a new part of the terminal with streamlined security processing.
Virgin Australia’s chief operating officer Sean Donohue said: “Over the past two years, Virgin Australia has been expanding its presence in the Northern Territory and making enhancements to improve the travel experience for our customers.
“We recognise the increasing importance of Darwin in line with the growth of the Northern Territory as a business and tourism destination. To date we have launched Sydney-Darwin flights, commenced codeshare on SilkAir international flights from Darwin and announced a new 150-seat airport lounge to be launched in 2014. With the recent acquisition of Skywest Airlines, Virgin Australia will now fly direct from Darwin to Broome and Kununurra,” Donohue added.
To coincide with the broader terminal development, Qantas will more than double the size of its existing Qantas Club and upgrade facilities to cater for business and premium leisure travel to the region, while Virgin installs a brand new lounge in addition to new check-in facilities.
Visiting Darwin for the announcement of the major investment in airport facilities, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the existing facilities had been outgrown as the airline increased its operations in Darwin.
The expanded Qantas Club will feature additional seating, business facilities, meeting rooms, Wi-Fi, showers, family zone and new food and beverage areas.
Qantas and Jetstar will also get new engineering administration and ground operations facilities as part of the broader redevelopment.
The Qantas Group operates around 80 per cent of all domestic flights to and within the Northern Territory. Jetstar has international services from Darwin to Singapore, Bali, Tokyo and Manila.
Virgin Australia currently flies direct to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth from the Northern Territory, offering 58 services per week to connect to 30 domestic and over 400 international cities. The airline also codeshares on SilkAir’s four-weekly return flights between Singapore and Darwin.
Work by Darwin Airport and the airlines begins in May and is expected to be completed by mid-2014.