Ballina airport paoised to overtake Coffs

Ballina mayor Phil Silver said the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport was poised to overtake Coffs Harbour Airport for the number of passengers flying in and out if indeed it hadnt happened already.

He said this meant there was no need to court Singaporean-based Tiger Airways, which announced an interest in providing low-cost regional air services to Australia earlier this month.

The Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile announced that Tiger Airways had applied for an air operator certificate and was looking into major regional routes, he said. Ballina is a major regional route and we would be interested in talking to them. But we wouldnt be pursuing them the way we pursued Virgin (Blue) five years ago, because at that time the airport was in dire straits.

He said any deal brokered with Tiger Airways would have to involve suitable cost recovery for the additional wear and tear on the runway.

The more planes that land and take off the faster the runway wears out, he said.

Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport recorded 171,270 passenger movements in the six-month period from July 1 to the end of December last year. The corresponding figure in 2005 for the same period was 129,904. The increase represents 31.8 per cent growth.

Meanwhile, last year Coffs Harbour Airport recorded an average of 26,764 passenger movements per month, which equates to just 160,584 when multiplied by six (to reach an average for a six-month period).

Whilst commenting for this story, Cr Silver also floated the idea of consolidating air transport in the Northern Rivers using Ballina as a hub.

Any time Lismore wants to regionalise air transport through Ballina wed be happy to talk, he said. It costs a lot of money to run an airport and the regions travellers are carrying the cost of maintaining two airports within half an hours drive of each other. It would make good sense to centralise.

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