Artist impressions of the Townsville Airport redevelopment.
Artist impressions of the Townsville Airport redevelopment.

Airport defends new $3 passenger fee

TOWNSVILLE Airport has defended its plan to introduce a $3 ticket levy to help fund an $80 million redevelopment after Cairns airport announced it would fund a $55 million redevelopment from within its operating budget and existing passenger charges.

The Townsville redevelopment has been stalled since Qantas, the airport's major customer, rejected the plan to add a $3 Infrastructure Development Contribution to domestic fares into and out of the city, saying it was too high and would hurt trade.

The airport has responded with a #GetOnBoardTSV social media campaign, also called Project Alive, in an effort to win public support and get Qantas on board.

Cairns Airport announced a $55 million redevelopment of its domestic terminal last week.

The project is expected to generate more than 300 jobs during construction and another 150 jobs on completion, expanding the departure hall by 10,000sq m and adding 2000sq m in dining and retail space.

"We want to give departing passengers one last chance to experience the best of the diverse and exciting Cairns and Tropical North Queensland foodie scene, showcasing the wonderful local produce from the region in our menus," Cairns Airport CEO Norris Carter said. It is to be funded entirely by the airport and retailers, with no customer levy.

"The upgrade will be funded within our operational budget and the current passenger service charge paid by the airlines," Mr Carter said.

Domestic passenger charges, arriving and departing, at Cairns total $30.30.

Townsville's domestic passenger charges are $30.72. The $3 ticket levy would add $6.

Townsville Airport chief operating officer Kevin Gill said the airport planned to meet the entire upfront cost of the redevelopment and recover $40 million through the $3 Infrastructure Development Contribution.

Mr Gill said Townsville had significantly fewer passenger numbers than Cairns and that funding upgrades through passenger charges was an accepted model used by airports around the world.

"Every airport is different," Mr Gill said. "In our situation we have significantly less passenger numbers."

Mr Gill said Townsville airport also did not have the same retail footprint as the Cairns airport.

He said retailers, through lease arrangements, also would contribute to the Townsville terminal redevelopment over time but that it would be a relatively small contribution.