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Canberra
Thursday, January 28, 2021
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Plea for aviation plan to avoid airport shutdown

The Canberra Airport is looking at a potential nine-month shutdown if a risk managed domestic aviation plan for is not in place by 1 October this year.

The Airport is calling on state and federal leaders, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, and chief medical officers to return domestic aviation safely to a 25% limit.

Canberra Airport managing director, Stephen Byron, said the company was making several proposals to keep the industry up and running. 

“We have put a proposal to South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia that if they wanted to open their borders for ACT residents only that we would support that. That will be by way of an ACT drivers’ licence check,” he said.  

“Plan 2 is to have a restart of aviation up to a 25% limit and that is very much like the stage four lockdown of the construction industry in Victoria.”

Mr Byron said the Airport had received correspondence from SA, Queensland and Tasmania premier offices “digesting the proposal,” but was yet to hear from WA.

The Airport announced earlier this month it would reduce operations from seven to six days a week, commencing this Saturday 22 August, to avoid further job losses and redundancies.

It has also previously reported to an operating percentage of 2% since the beginning of the pandemic, which My Byron said was unacceptable.

“We aren’t looking for a handout or looking to government for financial support. What we are saying is we need the ability to operate at the level above 1 and 2% capacity,” he said.

“A 98% or 99% shutdown of aviation is unnecessary, it’s draconian, it’s destructive and the fact that it’s going to stay permanent until the middle of next year means there won’t be flying for anyone.”

The Airport is still operating daily flights to Sydney and Brisbane, and three flights per week to Ballina-Byron Bay.

The Queensland Premier announced earlier this week that the hard border would remain to NSW and the ACT until there was no community transmission, despite no active cases in the Territory.

Mr Byron said a “zero case benchmark” was a concerning thought for the aviation industry.

“If zero cases is the benchmark in NSW and Victoria, there will be no interstate travel for the next 12 months,” he said.

“The key thing by 1 October is to either have a key start or know there is a plan for a restart in domestic aviation.

“If we don’t have that, then really we have to realise there will be zero flying going on between 1 October and the middle of next year.”

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts