Wagga Airport losing its direct flights to Sydney Airport under any deregulation move would have a “huge impact” on the Riverina.
That’s according to Wagga City Council mayor Greg Conkey.
Tourism and Transport Forum Australia, which described itself as the “peak industry group for the tourism, transport and aviation sectors” last week released a report ‘Connecting the Dots: Enhancing our National Aviation Network’.
Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said the report recommended a series of reforms to improve the operating capacity and efficiency of Sydney Airport, including reviews into “rigid and outdated operating restrictions”.
Cr Conkey said if Wagga lost its regional landing and take-off slots at Sydney Airport, the entire region would be affected.
“I would be astounded if people from the country were not allowed to fly direct to Kingsford Smith Airport in Mascot,” he said.
“We have had this fight over numerous years and it would have a significant impact on airlines and rural and regional NSW.
“It would have an impact on passengers, obviously, having to fly them into Bankstown or somewhere.”
The Tourism and Transport Forum claimed its recommendations would benefit operators like Regional Express, which operates a same-day return service to Wagga.
The forum claimed a “regional ring fence” at Sydney had prevented increased services and competition.
The Tourism and Transport Forum’s report into Sydney Airport stated the ‘Slot Management Scheme’ from 2013 was keeping new airlines out of the regional market.
“This scheme contains arrangements that designate particular slots as ‘regional’ for the operation of intra-NSW services,” the report stated.
“However, the interaction of the specific restrictions on regional slots with the rolling hour movement cap prevents the introduction of new regional services during peak periods.”
Regional Express has been contacted for comment and it was not clear if the regional airline was or was not a member of the Tourism and Transport Forum.
Opposition transport spokesman and federal Grayndler MP Anthony Albanese said Sydney Airport must maintain space for regional airlines.
“Completely deregulating activity at Sydney Airport … would mean that regions such as Wagga Wagga would not be able to have that access during peak periods into and out of Sydney,” he said.
Mr Albanese said same-business day flights were “critical” for Wagga.
“I flew here this morning from Sydney Airport; there are flights back this afternoon during that peak period,” he said.
“It’s absolutely vital that we protect those regional slots at Sydney Airport for regional airlines.”
.@AlboMP addresses @AOPA conference in Wagga, says there needs to be a ‘partnership’ between policy makers, regulators and industry for growth in services by aircraft owners and pilots. He acknowledges there needs to be balance between safety and viability. #auspolpic.twitter.com/H5eSawu7JS— Rex Martinich (@RexMartinich) July 10, 2018
Mr Albanese visited Wagga on Tuesday to address the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia conference.
Riverina MP and federal Transport Minister Michael McCormack addressed the conference on Monday.
“As the minister responsible for aviation – and someone who has lived and worked here in the Riverina all my life - I appreciate the valuable role aviation plays in serving regional Australia,” he told the conference.
“I recognise the many economic and community contributions the general aviation sector makes, from flying training, aerial spraying, mustering and surveying, through to the delivery of medical, rescue and emergency services.”