The industry body representing Australian airports has said the lack of direct help for its members shows the government is treating them as an “afterthought”.
“Airports have been good corporate citizens during this pandemic, staying open and in many cases reducing or waiving landing fees for airlines despite losing $320 million a month in revenue,” said the Australian Airports Association. “More than 70 per cent of staff at regional airports have been placed on reduced hours, been re-deployed or made redundant.”
Earlier on Monday, the government announced it would continue to supplement domestic routes until 31 January 2021 and regional routes until 28 March 2021.
AAA chief executive James Goodwin said, “While these programs provide a huge helping hand to our airlines, our airports are still being considered as an afterthought.
“Even with this program in place, jobs on the ground are hard to sustain because the majority of regional airports are council-owned and don’t have access to JobKeeper.
“To provide sector-wide support, the government must use the Budget to support the costs of essential, government-mandated services such as international and domestic security screening, airfield security and extra COVID-19 cleaning.”
Announcing the continuation of the two aid packages, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the government was “doing our bit” by helping to maintain a minimum network.
“We know regional tourism will help drive Australia’s economic recovery and today’s announcement of further support for key routes will be a big boost to local economies,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
“We acknowledge the disruption caused by current border arrangements has made life difficult in the aviation industry, with cancelled flights, refunds and passenger frustration.
“Uncertainty affects the ability of airlines and airports to plan for recovery and undermines consumer confidence, which amounts to a significant cost to industry and ultimately the Australian economy.”
The package of help for regional aviation, known as the Regional Airline Network Support program, was announced in late March and was initially projected to last six months.
It covered one service per week on each route to 138 communities, as well as granting extra help for aero-medical and “other essential industry service providers”.
Meanwhile, the Domestic Aviation Network Support, first unveiled in April, covers all capital cities and initially allowed the Qantas Group to increase its network from 105 to 164 per week; and Virgin to shift from running only Sydney-Melbourne services to flying 64 return services.
Both carriers have since increased their network as borders have reopened.