North Coast flights to Sydney guaranteed for three years
ACCESS for flights to Sydney Airport from the north coast will be guaranteed for the next three years, with an extension of regional access rights for the next three years.
The rules governing such flights have been somewhat controversial, with the airport pushing for more access for larger planes, rather than the lower-income regional flights.
Due to expire at the end of June this year, the updated and extended rules will mean airlines such as QantasLink and Virgin will continue to fly to and from regional areas to Sydney.
Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said the guarantee meant Sydney Airport would not be able to increase its charges for regional airlines above inflation until at least 2016.
"Further, Sydney Airport will be required to notify the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission of any proposed increases for regional airlines," he said.
"In the last 12 months, over 67,000 regional airline flights flew into and out of Sydney Airport, carrying almost 2 million passengers."
Among the regional flights in and out of the biggest airport in the country in 2012 were more than 4800 to Coffs Harbour, more than 2600 to Ballina and nearly 2000 to Lismore.
Mr Albanese said the flights were vital for regional Australians to visit Sydney for business, medical appointments and employment opportunities.
"Sydney Airport is approaching capacity and regional airlines face real pressures to maintain their access in that environment," he said.
"Extending current arrangements until 2016 ensures commercial pressures do not push regional airlines out, in favour of larger commercial interstate and international airlines."
He said the airport's slot management scheme would also continue, guaranteeing airport access for regional airlines during peak periods.
Flight numbers to and from Sydney Airport, 2012:
- Coffs Harbour: 4831
- Ballina: 2673
- Port Macquarie: 4567
- Wagga Wagga: 5345
- Lismore: 1966
- Albury: 6629
- Grafton: 38
SOURCE: Federal Government; includes airports with direct connection to Sydney.