Airlines need to be supported by adequate infrastructure to give them the best chance of profitability, the head of the Qantas pilots union says.
Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) president Nathan Safe says the proposed new airport at Badgerys Creek will not only help create jobs in Western Sydney, it will also boost the performance of all airlines.
“Airline are very capital intensive, very infrastructure intensive businesses and in order for our own airlines to be profitable they need to be supported by appropriate infrastructure,” Safe told delegates at the CAPA Australia Pacific aviation summit in Sydney on Friday.
“Pretending that the existing Sydney Airport infrastructure is going to give Qantas and Virgin, and the foreign airlines, the best chance of being profitable is just pie-in-the-sky stuff.”
Safe’s comments, made during a debate about the proposed Western Sydney airport, come just weeks before Qantas is tipped to announce a loss of about $700 million for he 2014 financial year, according to market consensus.
The Flying Kangaroo is also in the process of shedding 5,000 jobs in a bid to return to profitability, while analysts have Virgin reporting a loss of about $200 million loss for the 12 months to June 30.
The Commonwealth and the owners of Kingsford-Smith Airport have begun discussions over the size and layout of a proposed second Sydney airport, a Senate estimates hearing heard in May.
When the federal government sold Sydney Airport in 2002, it included a 30-year first right of refusal to build and operate any second airport built within 100km of the existing terminals at Mascot. Under that provision the federal government is required to offer a formal consultation period with Sydney Airport’s owners of not less than five months and not longer than 12 months.
Safe said those planning the proposed runway and terminal needed to learn from the lessons of the past.
Moreover, the airport had to be built to take advantage of the latest satellie-based GNSS technology, such as curved approach and departure flightpaths and precision guidance approaches allowing landings in virtually zero visibility conditions.
Safe said those who questioned the need for a second airport in the Sydney basin only had to experience the growing frustration of being a pilot flying in and out of Kingsford-Smith.
“Every time I fly an aeroplane into Sydney Airport I need to have 20 minutes’ worth of fuel extra just because it has a traffic flow problem,” he said.
“That is a 24 hours a day requirement and that is higher than any other airport in Australia other than Brisbane which has finally got its act together and is building a parallel runway.”
Safe said the government cap of 80 aircraft movements an hour was a “complete anachronism”, while noise sharing rules mean only one of the three available runways can be used at certain times.
“What is the environmental impact of having to slow down and enter holding patterns and burn two tonnes extra of jet fuel because there is no capacity to land at Sydney Airport?” Safe commented.
Meanwhile, Cr Tony Hadchiti, the president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, said a curfew-free airport at Badgerys Creek would open up Western Sydney to the rest of the world through airfreight.
“How does our agribusiness benefit from having a curfew-free airport?” Hadchiti posed.
“Can the farmers get their stock on planes at 3am and into another country by the time they are open for business?”