Sunshine Coast Airport takes off as Australia’s fastest growing airport, but expansion needed to maintain momentum
The summer of 2015-16 has been a record breaker for Sunshine Coast Airport with passenger numbers growing for the sixth consecutive month, making Sunshine Coast Airport the fastest growing airport in the country.
Over the summer months (December to February) a total of 244,708 passengers used the flight services at Sunshine Coast Airport, representing growth of 19% on the same period 12 months prior.
Increased services by Virgin Australia and Jetstar, the first summer of flights by Air New Zealand, and the start of Qantas services to Sydney all contributed to the strong growth.
Recently released December data from the Commonwealth Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) confirms Sunshine Coast Airport as the fastest growing airport in the country for December, the sixth month running at the top of the chart.
The airport experienced a 17% year on year increase in total passengers for the month of December, with Cairns (8.8%), Alice Springs (8.6%), Hobart (7.2%) and Melbourne (7.2%) rounding out the top five.
Sunshine Coast Airport General Manager Peter Pallot said the airport was continuing to go from strength to strength with February passenger figures a prime example.
“February was a sensational month for the airport and the figures clearly demonstrate the growing popularity of the airport with both locals and visitors,” Mr Pallot said
“In what is typically a quiet month, we have had 65,261 passengers pass through our gates. That’s a 25% growth rate year on year.”
Mr Pallot said capacity on the Melbourne – Sunshine Coast route in February grew by an average of 15% compared to 12 months prior. The extra seats were eagerly snapped up by passengers with an 18% increase in passenger numbers and strong loads being experienced across the board.
“The Sydney – Sunshine Coast route saw 32% more seats added as a result of additional capacity by Virgin Australia and Jetstar as well as the start of Qantas services,” he said.
“Passenger numbers were up 24% year on year with both Virgin Australia and Jetstar recording growth.”
Sunshine Coast Council CEO Michael Whittaker said Sunshine Coast Airport was a business unit of council and was not relying on ratepayer funding.
“The $347 million Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion Project will help grow passengers numbers and support the needs of the growing Sunshine Coast community,” Mr Whittaker said.
“It is anticipated it will contribute $4.1 billion to the local economy and result in 3500 fewer dwellings being affected by noise each day, generate more than 2230 jobs and help our export businesses.”
Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Ambrose welcomed the news of capacity and passenger increases to the Sunshine Coast Airport and the region.
“When we market Sunshine Coast to the rest of Australia, and internationally, one of the biggest selling points is that you can land and be at your destination within 30 minutes, and it is a huge marketing advantage,” Mr Ambrose said.
“High-yielding conference and other groups, in particular, want the capacity to fly direct to a destination, and while Sunshine Coast Airport has done a great job in recent years accommodating the growth in airline services, the reality is that we need a major overhaul and upgrade if we are to maintain the momentum.
“Regional destinations are all about competitive advantage. As soon as a region gets – or loses – a competitive advantage, the tourism situation can change dramatically.
“Investment is being made in regional airports across Australia, and while we may have one of the most enviable destinations in the country, unless we have the infrastructure to support it, we will lose out – and that means income for Sunshine Coast businesses and jobs for Sunshine Coast residents.”