Mark Cachia is the new CEO at Gladstone Airport Corporation.
Mark Cachia is the new CEO at Gladstone Airport Corporation.

Airport security concerns amid coronavirus

GLADSTONE Airport Corporation could ask to relax security screening due to fears of being unable to replace specialised security staff if they were to contract the coronavirus.

CEO Mark Cachia said he would approach the Department of Home Affairs with the request amid concerns regional airports would have difficulty replacing resources if their staff had to be isolated or quarantined.

This comes after Qantas and Virgin, who codeshare with Alliance Airlines, announced they would ground 60 and 50 per cent of their domestic fleets respectively.

Mr Cachia said the airport was reducing the risk of coronavirus spread through additional sterilisation of high-traffic areas, extra hand sanitiser and more regular cleaning.

He said there was no immediate risk to airport staff jobs but there were no guarantees in the long term.

"There's no indication at the moment that any of our employees will lose their positions," he said.

"Part of our contingency plan is for them to take annual leave and sick leave.

"But depending on the length of this whole pandemic, that's going to be a real difficult one for a lot of industries and businesses to answer."

He said one of the biggest problems for the airport was sourcing additional resources if an employee contracted the virus.

"One of the things we (may request) from the Department of Home Affairs is a relaxation of the screening without compromising security because if we've lost our screening manpower it's going to be difficult to operate," he said.

He said that relaxation could either be through screening at Brisbane airport - the only commercial flight route out of Gladstone - or reducing screening at Gladstone airport.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesman said the department recognised this was a challenging and uncertain time for the aviation sector.

"The department is working closely with airports on a case-by-case basis to address operational impacts and maintain security," the spokesman said.

He said work was happening in the background through talks with government agencies and other airports.

In light of the $715 million funding announcement for airlines, Mr Cachia said he wanted airports to be considered for funding.

"We would expect that some part of that package or a package would help the airports," he said.

"Obviously we're affected because our revenue stream is the airlines operating.

"We've certainly already expressed our concerns through the Australian Airports Association."

Tourism operator Australia by Seaplane announced it would close its airport until further notice.

Qantas could not confirm if Gladstone flights would be grounded. Alliance Airlines was contacted to comment.