Wagga is lucky enough to have an airport that offers passengers a choice of more than one regional carrier.
Residents in areas like Mount Isa have for years been asked to hand over more than $1000 for some domestic flights.
However, The Daily Advertiserreported this week that more than one in five planes departing or arriving at Wagga Airport were delayed or cancelled.
Data collected from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics listed Wagga among the worst regional airports for flight delays.
Unless the decades-long wait for an Inland Rail Route between Melbourne and Brisbane comes to an end, the airport will remain a key method for bringing long-distance and interstate visitors to Wagga.
As the Wagga City Council’s 2016/17 annual report stated, more than 200,000 passengers pass through Wagga Wagga Airport each year and about 7000 public passenger flights.
Board any flight to or from Wagga and you will find cattle traders checking the latest prices before takeoff, representatives from some of Australia’s biggest companies and Riverina businesses on their way to make new connections in the capital cities.
It’s not hard to see how letting Wagga’s air connections become frustrating and inconvenient would hurt the region.
Some Wagga councillors have debated whether to keep the airport as a publicly-owned asset.
Arguments were put in late November 2016 that Wagga City Council should sell the airport in response to criticism from Rex about the facility’s management.
Another source of contention was long line of financial deficits reported for the airport.
At the time of the debate, its audited figures revealed deficits of $209,000 in 2015/16; $405,000 in 2014/15; $563,000 in 2013/14; $259,000 in 2012/13; and $186,000 in 2011/12.
The airport’s position, at least on paper, has deteriorated since then, which council largely blamed on asset depreciation.
The council’s own performance targets call for it to ensure Wagga’s airport remains a market leader and “a regional business hub and key contributor to the regional economy”.
Hopefully, both public and private sectors can work together to find a way to maintain and improve a vital asset and its services.