Whitsunday Coast Airport (WCA) plans to expand its terminal and expand the runway to handle the expected tripling in passenger numbers to more than 900,000 between now and 2035.
The airport’s owners, Whitsunday Regional Council, have adopted the airport’s master plan and feasibility study, which has proposed terminal improvements, a runway extension and the expansion of the apron space, among other projects, to cater for the forecast growth of travellers to the region.
Whitsunday Coast Airport handled 282,500 passengers in the 2014/15 financial year, an increase of 16.7 per cent compared with the prior corresponding period. The master plan said passenger numbers were tipped to reach 325,000-390,000 in the current year
“There is considerable growth expected in the next 20 years and the 2035 high forecast of 901,404 reflects this,” the master plan said.
“The airport currently provides between four and five services daily. This is expected to increase to six by the end of 2015 and to include international services by 2018.
“For a regional port such as WCA to attract international direct flights will take time to establish and most likely commence through a charter service building over time into a RPT service. We believe the potential for successfully establishing an international charter service and growing to a RPT service to WCA is high.”
Currently, Whitsunday Coast Airport has one operating runway measuring 2,073m long and 45m wide, as well as one decommissioned runway.
The master plan said lengthening Runway 11/29 to 2,400m was a “high priority airside infrastructure upgrade” that would be required to accommodate an increase in existing aircraft movements, particularly once international services commence. The document noted all the required land for the extension was within the airport site.
The airport terminal was described in the master plan as “inadequate” when aircraft load factors were above 80 per cent, or when one flight was delayed and a second service needed to occupy the same space.
Whitsunday Regional Council has chosen to expand the existing terminal and construct a separate, but connected, international terminal, the master plan said.
The Daily Mercury reported construction of the expanded departure lounge, which would add 100 seats, has commenced and would be finished by September.
The newspaper said the total construction cost of the runway lengthening, apron expansion and terminal upgrades would be $59 million.
“The Master Plan identifies and measures the key economic drivers, opportunities and risks influencing potential expansion of the airport and the adjacent lands,” Whitsunday Regional Council mayor Jennifer Whitney said in a statement.
“The strategic economic importance to our region, to the State of Queensland and the nation is demonstrated throughout the Master Plan; our region has a fantastic opportunity for the future.”