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Virgin Australia committed to Western Sydney Airport

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 14, 2018
Rob Sharp says both Virgin Australia and Tigerair Australia will fly out of Western Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Virgin Australia group executive for airlines Rob Sharp has reaffirmed the airline group’s commitment to operating from the Western Sydney Airport being built at Badgerys Creek.

Construction on the new airport got underway in September, with a terminal capable of handling 10 million passengers a year and a 3,700m runway due to be completed by 2026.

Sharp noted the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) recent 20-year forecast that showed annual passenger numbers would reach 8.2 billion by 2037, more than double the four billion that flew in calendar 2017.

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Further, the existing congestion at Sydney Airport in Mascot showed a second airport at Badgerys Creek was needed to meet the expected demand.

“Sydney Kingsford Smith is basically full from a practical perspective,” Sharp told media on the sidelines of the Australian Airports Association (AAA) national conference in Brisbane on Wednesday.

“All the key slots that align with overseas are largely full so we’ve been a big supporter of Badgerys Creek.”

Virgin Australia group executive for airlines Rob Sharp at the 2018 Australian Airports Association annual conference.
Virgin Australia group executive for airlines Rob Sharp at the 2018 Australian Airports Association annual conference.

The initial earthworks that commenced on September 24 were to prepare the ground for the eventual runway and terminal construction.

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Currently, the difference between the highest and lowest points on the airport site was equivalent to a 12-storey building. Therefore, about 1.8 million cubic metres of earth is being moved. This work, to be done by about 180 workers, is expected to be finished by the end of calendar 2019.

Meanwhile, major earthworks due to begin in 2019 will shift about 22 million cubic metres of earth. Expressions of interest are open for the first of three major earthworks and airside civil works packages, which are expected to be awarded in mid-2019.

The Western Sydney Airport Plan shows Stage 1 of the airport would feature a terminal capable of handling up to 10 million domestic and international passengers a year, with a single 3,700m long by 60m wide runway on a 05/23 orientation.

Western Sydney Airport chief executive Graham Millett told the Australian Aviation podcast he expected Badgerys Creek to operate “in conjunction” with the existing facility at Mascot.

“They will be competitors and they will be collaborators, there’s no question about that,” Millett said.

An artist's impression of the Western Sydney Airport terminal. (Federal Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities)
An artist’s impression of the Western Sydney Airport terminal. (Federal Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities)

Sharp said the expected population growth in western Sydney – which by some estimates will reach three million residents by 2037 from about two million currently – supported the airport’s prospects.

“It is located in the right direction because the city is expanding in that direction so if you are looking a decade, 15 years down the track it will have the sustainable base there,” Sharp said

“We’ve announced that both Virgin and Tiger will go in there. We clearly see that that capacity is going to be needed.”

Western Sydney Airport Major Milestones

Relationship with airports good: Sharp

The regulation of Australia’s airports is currently the subject of a Productivity Commission inquiry.

Submissions to the inquiry, which commenced in June, have included calls to change the current regulatory arrangements for the nation’s airports, which some have described as natural monopolies with no effective competition or reason to change or innovate and calls to change.

In response, the AAA told the Productivity Commission the current framework had led to better quality of service outcomes, cheaper airfares for passengers and increased discounts to airlines on international charges.

The overall airline sector view was being presented to the Productivity Commission by industry group Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ).

On a day-to-day basis however, Sharp said the relationship between Virgin Australia and the airports it flies to was strong, pointing to the recent agreement with Melbourne Airport to revamp its Terminal 3 as one example of the parties’ ability to work together.

“We are working closely with them and they are key partners for us at the end of the day,” Sharp said.

“Does that mean we don’t have some concerns around some of the structures of privatisation. No, we do and we are raising those through A4ANZ.”

“But we’ve got a strong relationship with airports.”

Virgin Australia's new Terminal 3 facilities at Melbourne Tullamarine will feature a premium entry for eligible frequent flyers. (Virgin Australia)
Virgin Australia’s new Terminal 3 facilities at Melbourne Tullamarine will feature a premium entry for eligible frequent flyers. (Virgin Australia)

To listen to the podcast with Western Sydney Airport chief executive Graham Millett, click here.

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19 Comments

  • David

    says:

    I think Virgins commitment to Western Sydney airport, will be with Tiger only, initially. Makes sense to fly Tiger internationally as well, to NZ, Fiji etc.

  • Lechuga

    says:

    I feel virgin will fly it’s own metal from Western Sydney early on, between there and Melbourne at the very least.

    • David

      says:

      Lechuga

      & dilute fortress SYD ? Yes there’s demand from western Sydney for Virgin/Qantas type service to MEL & BNE, but do Virgin/Qantas really want to split their capacity ?

      In other multi airport cities like New York, which has 3 main airports, not all airlines want to fly to all 3 & they end up choosing 1 or 2 to concentrate on.

      • reeves35

        says:

        New York is not a good example as, whilst there are 3 airports, they are not really located that far apart and all fairly convenient to the city. A better comparison would be Washington DC which basically has 3 airports (Reagan, Dulles & Baltimore) but they are not located nearby each other with major airlines operating from at least 2.

        I can definitely see VA operating from both without cannibalising one or the other. As Rob Sharp points out, peak slots are already all full in SYD. SYD-MEL is operating with load factors above 90%. In 7 years time, the situation will be worse assuming current growth trends continue. There is no political will to increase capacity at SYD so Badgerys Creek is the only realistic option.

        • Ben

          says:

          Peak slots are full… yes based on the rediculous 80 moves/hr cap. It’s time the politicians grew a pair and took the brakes off KSA! They managed 120/hr peak during the Olympics, there is no reason to figure they can’t safely and reliably move triple digits an hour. Yes they will still need WSA, but at least in the short term that will cover the capacity issues in Sydney until WSA is actually operational… by which time KSA will ACTUALLY be full.

          And the same pollies are the reason we aren’t SERIOUSLY considering exemptions or shoulder periods for stage 4 aircraft. Seriously, my vacuum cleaner makes more noise than a 787 or 350.

      • Rupert

        says:

        @DAVID – more a case of “do Virgin/Qantas really want to leave this space to their competitor” I would think. Aside from the businesses / govt departments / branch offices / data centres etc. located in the western half of Sydney, I’d imagine plenty of premium domestic passengers also start their day in the area. If I were one of those I’d rather drive to / park at WSZ than get myself to SYD for an early morning flight.

        • David

          says:

          Rupert,

          What competitor ? Air New Zealand are the only viable airline who could fly Western Sydney to Melbourne & Brisbane.

      • Trogdor

        says:

        While Tiger will almost certainly move right away, I think we’ll only see Virgin move some “tourist” flights, and perhaps a couple of MEL/BNE services, while the main Virgin services remain at Mascot. I don’t see them pushing their business and international tourist traffic (overseas visitors moving around between capitals) out to Western Sydney.

  • Rupert

    says:

    David,
    Virgin and Qantas compete against each other. Virgin’s competitor is Qantas, Qantas’ competitor is Virgin. “do Virgin/Qantas really want to leave this space to their competitor”.

  • Chris

    says:

    I see Western Sydney being for Jetstar, Tigerair and international low cost carriers like Scoot, AirAsiaX, etc. With regards to Qantas and Virgin, they would use Western Sydney as a secondary airport for interstate flights to support lower frequency interstate flights. Mascot will still be their primary Sydney destination.

    With regards to Air NZ using Western Sydney, I don’t see it, as they Mascot will be for B777/B787 Trans Tasman services. If they do use Western Sydney, it would most likely be leisure flights using A321neo’s ex Auckland and Christchurch.

  • Trogdor

    says:

    There is one other candidate for Western Sydney flights. Perhaps, given the lack of curfew, we’ll see someone run an evening flight from Perth to address the massive gap we have now (either leave Perth by 3:30pm or wait until midnight)

    • craig

      says:

      all bleck air(air nz) could fly Perth to western Sydney. They have traffic rights.

  • David

    says:

    Chris,

    Air NZ could easily enter the domestic market now. Much easier for a NZ airline to fly within Australia domestically, than for any Australian airline. Insane but true. Apparently dealing with NZ CAA is much easier than dealing with CASA & NZ airlines don’t have to deal with CASA to much of an extent if flying in domestically in Australia.

    Plus the kiwis dump their dodgy wine here & we pay them to do it, through WET tax.Most kiwi wines tastes like it came out of a horse.

    • craig

      says:

      yes, when the recession starts kicking in which won’t be long now, Air NZ could fly PER/SYD/AKL & sell PER/AKL, PER/SYD & SYD/AKL sectors. They could probably do it with a new A321LR as well freeing up widebodies for longer sectors.

  • James

    says:

    I can see air new Zealand fkying from western Sydney to both mel & bne. Their costs are lower thsn both qantas & virgin & many in kiwi dollars

  • Michael

    says:

    air new zealand could turn western Sydney into a small hub. They could have flights from all over the place, such at Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, hubbing at western Sydney continuing onto Auckland. Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown etc.

    The only complication is an Australian only domestic fare, would include GST, where a fare from say Perth to Auckland via western Sydney wouldn’t. + plus which terminals would they operate from in OZ ?

  • David

    says:

    following Virgins “divorce” from Air NZ, you’d think Air NZ would be planning something like this in Australia.

    • reeves35

      says:

      NZ would be crucified in the AU market. QF and VA have the market basically sewn up with the QFF and Velocity pools basically consuming all the upper end of the market with JQ and TT comfortably operating at the lower end . NZ would have to operate from low cost terminals or international terminals and even then gate restrictions would apply in peak periods. They possess no unique selling proposition and we know from history that the AU market is basically a duopoly.

  • Ian

    says:

    Western sydney is the perfect low cost hub for air nz. From all over australia to nz & to north & south America. They could even bypass nz. Air nz used to fly Sydney /lax nonstop. Must have been 20 years ago.

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