By Stephanie Nestor, Assistant Editor, Infrastructure Magazine

In the 2022/23 financial year, over 14 million passengers passed through Perth Airport, with 5 million of those flying to regional areas within Western Australia. With surging regional passenger numbers, Perth Airport has started work on three key projects that will help cater for Western Australia’s growing regional aviation sector.

Australia-wide, passenger numbers are returning to pre-pandemic levels, with international and interstate flights steadily increasing.

However, for Perth Airport, there has been a boom in intrastate flights around regional Western Australia. According to Perth Airport, in May 2023, almost 550,000 intrastate travellers passed through the airport, making it the highest single month regional passenger number on record.

In June, regional passenger numbers were 39 per cent above pre-pandemic levels. With the airport at capacity most days, these increasing numbers have highlighted the need for expanding aviation services and infrastructure.

Crucial developments

Perth Airport is investing $80 million for three projects in the Airport Central precinct to underpin the future growth of regional aviation in Western Australia. The projects include expanding the current Terminal 2 apron, building a new $35 million maintenance hangar for Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA), and the development of a new Aviation Support Precinct to provide additional aviation support facilities for airport operators.

Perth Airport has engaged local construction partners West Coast Civil and Perkins Builders to deliver these important projects for Western Australia. Perth Airport Acting CEO, Kate Holsgrove, said Perth Airport’s continuous and efficient operations are crucial for the viability of the $83 billion Western Australian resource sector.

“Following the last resources boom, the opening of Terminal 2 (T2) in 2013 made a significant impact on how efficiently the airport operated, creating more capacity and a greatly improved customer experience,” Ms Holsgrove said.

“Since opening more than ten years ago, the terminal has experienced a 54 per cent increase in passenger numbers. The apron has now reached capacity with aircraft parking on taxiways overnight to be ready for the early morning peak departures.”

Meeting soaring demand

With the need to prepare for the future development of the state underpinning these projects, it is crucial that Perth Airport is prepared for rising regional traveller numbers.

As this demand skyrockets, so do opportunities for industries such as tourism and the resources sector – supporting Western Australia’s economic growth. The Western Australian Government’s joint venture with six participating airlines, the Regional Zone Cape Scheme, is encouraging regional travellers to visit Perth with over 150,000 capped airfares flown in the first 12 months.

“There are currently 38 overnight aircraft parking positions at T2, 18 of which are remote positions used for parking by airline partners from both T2 and T1D,” Ms Holsgrove said.

“Based on the demand of our airline partners, we will deliver an additional six remote parking positions by early next year, and we are also looking at delivering an additional eleven positions, providing 55 parking positions for T2 in the future – providing a 45 per cent increase in capacity. “The expansion of the apron provides operational flexibility for our airline partners within the Airport Central precinct and allows them to grow their business.”

VARA has committed to an Agreement for Lease of the new maintenance hangar and apron facility, expected to be completed by September 2024, which will allow VARA to operate more efficiently by consolidating its warehouse, storage, and engineering and maintenance office facilities in one location.

Concept Drawing

VARA Executive General Manager, Nathan Miller, said the fleet renewal program is well underway and is set to strengthen resources and contract flying in Western Australia.

“The new facility will support the ongoing delivery of our fleet renewal program with the capacity to service our new larger fuel-efficient 737-700 aircraft, as we phase out our F100s,” Mr Miller said. “It will also deliver greater operational efficiency enabling us to consolidate our maintenance, engineering and storage to one central base.

“This follows several key investments that bolster our operations and infrastructure in the state of Western Australia, including the establishment of a new local training base and a brand-new corporate HQ in the heart of Perth CBD this year.”

Connecting the state

These new facilities and expansions promise to connect the state, with opportunities for additional aviation services and airlines to set up in Western Australia. Ms Holsgrove said Perth Airport would also develop the Aviation Support Precinct near Terminal 2.

“This area will be reserved for operations that require airside access and apron areas for aeronautical operations, including hangarage, ground support providers, flight catering and airfreight logistics,” Ms Holsgrove said.

Alongside these works, Perth Airport is bringing together all its commercial air services at the Airport Central Precinct, connecting existing infrastructure in one location. “Perth Airport’s vision to consolidate all commercial air services at Airport Central aligns with Master Planning dating back to the 1970s and we are excited to start the next stages of development.”

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