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.
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.”
The initial earthworks that commenced on September 24 were to prepare the ground for the eventual runway and terminal construction.
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.
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.”
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.”
To listen to the podcast with Western Sydney Airport chief executive Graham Millett, click here.