Brisbane, Gold and Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba Wellcamp airports bound to take off

Source: The Courier Mail

NEARLY 85 million passengers a year will pass through southeast Queensland’s major airports by 2043, as supersonic jets cut travel times in half.

Airport and airline executives have laid out an ambitious vision for the region’s aviation future over the next quarter-century, predicting massive passenger and freight growth on the back of surging tourist and commercial demand.

The region’s biggest airport, Brisbane, will grow as large as Singapore Airport is today, with 60 million passengers passing through self-service terminals filled with high-end shops and restaurants.

A further 20 million passengers will jet in and out of the Gold Coast Airport, which, after decades of intense development, will be totally unrecognisable from how it looks today.

On the Sunshine Coast, passenger numbers will have more than tripled to 3.8 million after the addition of new domestic routes and direct links to Asia. Wellcamp Airport, in Toowoomba, approaching its 30th anniversary, will be a major international cargo hub.

Brisbane Airport Corporation chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff said the second runway, which is due for completion in 2020, would enable passenger numbers to more than double over the next 25 years.

“Without the new runway none of this growth would happen,” he said.

“We are currently a one runway operation and we’re doing close to 50 movements an hour and that’s a pretty good number but with the second runway we automatically increase the capacity to more than 100 movements an hour. One movement every 40 seconds in peak.”

He forecast domestic passenger numbers would grow from 17.5 million this year to about 44 million in 2043.

There would also be massive growth in international travellers with airlines adding more routes into Asia and North America and direct flights possible almost globally.

“I’m confident that in 2043 we’ll have direct flights from Brisbane to London and also to New York,” Mr de Graaff said.

Outgoing Virgin Australia boss John Borghetti said there was strong industry focus on aircraft with more range but manufacturers should focus on speed “to achieve the next step-change in aviation”.

“It is entirely reasonable to believe that in the next 10 years, we will see supersonic jets … flying commercial passengers,” he told an aviation conference last year.

Virgin has already taken an option on the first 10 airframes produced by US company Boom, which has been developing a supersonic aircraft that can carry passengers between Brisbane and Los Angeles in 6.5 hours or from Brisbane to Perth in about 2.5 hours.

Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said in the next 25 years the Gold Coast Airport would grow to be almost as big as Brisbane Airport is today.

He expects about 80 per cent of the 20 million passengers will fly domestically.

Construction of a terminal expansion is due to start soon, delivering a three-level facility with aerobridges.

“We also expect to break ground on our first airport hotel later this year, and anticipate there will be another built within the next 20 years,” Mr Mills said.

“We have factored in rail connections to the airport in our planning, which will offer passengers quick and easy connections across the Gold Coast and into Brisbane.”

Mayor Tom Tate’s vision for the Gold Coast includes upgrading the Southport Flying Club airfield at Coombabah for corporate jets to cater for visiting celebrities and business high-flyers.

The Sunshine Coast Airport has forecast more than 300 per cent passenger growth from 1.2 million in 2018 to 3.8 million in 2043.

An airport spokeswoman said the arrival of bigger aircraft on its extended runway would be critical for enabling direct flights to major centres in Asia and the Pacific.

Wellcamp Airport general manager Sara Hales said the region’s youngest airport would grow into an international freight hub operating from a world class cargo terminal. She said freighter services would be flying to major global hubs in Asia and the Middle East as well as domestic connections.

Young travellers Hannah Ballard and Chris Mobbs are yet to see the world, but by 2043 they might be able to visit anywhere in the world from Brisbane. The pair envision faster travel times, lower airfares, more technology and streamlined security, boosting air travel from Brisbane.

“I think there will be a lot less staff working in the airport, it will be technology-driven,” Ms Ballard, 17, said.

“I’d like to be able to fly direct to places like the UK or US. I’m going to America next year and I would much prefer a shorter flight than having to stop over in other countries.”

Airport to become mini-city

MORE than 46,000 people will work at Brisbane Airport within the next quarter of a century. The workforce, double the current 23,830, will account for one in every 100 Queenslanders employed.

A further 21,000-plus will be employed by businesses involved in the supply chain to the hub. New analysis of the airport’s economic influence reveals tens of thousands more jobs will be created around the state through tourism, agricultural exports and other sectors.

“Brisbane Airport is an incubator of success,’’ said Queensland Economics Advocacy Solutions founder Nick Behrens, who compiled the report.

He says a “rich tapestry’’ of 426 companies do business directly with the airport.

Three-quarters are small businesses and 69 per cent are located on site. Eighty-three per cent of them rate their performance as good, very, good or excellent.

“The patronage that’s going through that airport is just going to increase and increase and increase,” Mr Behrens said.

“And the new parallel runway will be a real boost.”

Some 73 per cent of airport businesses believe the new runway will have a positive impact on their companies, with 42 per cent expecting to employ more people as a result.

The airport’s direct economic contribution is currently $2.6 billion a year, with a further $1.4 billion indirect benefit.

Those figures are projected to hit $5.3 billion and $2.7 billion by 2040-41.

But Mr Behrens said the “enabling” effect of Brisbane Airport on the state’s economy, and regional towns in particular, is one of Queensland’s best-kept secrets.