At the Forefront of NSW’s Regional Airports
Coffs Harbour Airport, one of the largest and busiest regional airports in New South Wales, is the only airport serving the regional centre of Coffs Harbour. The airport was established by the Coffs Harbour City Council in 1928, and was requisitioned in World War II by the Royal Australian Air Force to play the role of an anti-submarine patrol airbase. The Council re-acquired the airport in the early 1990’s, and in 1994 they upgraded the runway terminal to ensure that it was up to code, and would be able to meet the demands of the future. Handling regional, domestic, and international classes of aircraft, the airport is currently serviced by three carriers with direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne; Virgin Australia, Tiger Air, and Qantas, and has the capacity to handle aircraft up to the size of a 240-seat Boeing 767. Passenger growth has averaged 6.5% over the last ten years with 12.6% in 2013.
The airport offers commercial and general aviation facilities, a charter facility, helicopter services, and aircraft maintenance services. A business lounge, ATM machines, and a café are located in the passenger terminal. “We now have 2 paid car parking options for our customers at the airport,” explains Dennis Martin, Manager of Coffs Harbour Airport. “We offer general paid parking and 24-hour security car parking which has secure undercover parking for up to 120 cars.” As well, there are six car rental companies located at Coffs Harbour Airport: Avis, Budget, Coffs Harbour Rent-a-Car, Europcar, Hertz, and Thrifty. As well, an Aviation Education Facility has been established in Coffs Harbour where students from Australia, Korea, and New Guinea are being trained to commercial levels.
Coffs Harbour Airport implements health and safety initiatives to ensure the airport is in an excellent working environment for their employees. They also have security officers using advanced x-ray screening equipment to scan all passengers and baggage. The airport focuses on the training of all their staff to ensure that they are able to handle any and every conflict situation.
The Council recently reviewed the Airport Master Plan & Land-Use Plan, and is currently working towards a development plan for vacant land in the general aviation area. “Our 24-hour security car parking is a new development; it originally was privately operated until it was acquired by the airport last year. We extended the main runway which took 12 months to finish, and cost $7.6 million. We also acquired a new helicopter facility, and upgraded the runway parking to be able to hold up to 5 jets.” In 2009, a new lounge was opened for passengers and visitors to the terminal, in addition to the existing two departure lounges and the Biggles coffee lounge. The new lounge seats 64 people, includes facilities, a work station and a 40” flat screen television. More recently the terminal has been further upgraded with another coffee lounge and additional seating. We now have seating for 430 people.
Industry relationships are vital to Coffs Harbour Airport. They work closely with a number of associations, such as the Australian Airports Association, the AAA offers powerful investment intelligence and market research, and engages the airports’ and other stakeholders. The airport is also involved at a state level with AAA. “We also work closely with some of our sister airports and have been discussing issues of common interest with each other; we are similar businesses but in different markets.”
Dennis feels that an issue that may impact the industry is access to Sydney Airport. At the moment there are no additional slots available during peak periods and this is stifling competition and increasing fares for regional customers. This is of particular concern to growing areas such as Coffs Harbour.
Dennis Martin worked for 28 years with Ansett Australia as an Area Manager, and served as a Director for Coffs Aviation and Travel Services between 1997 and 2012. He is now the Manager of Coffs Harbour Airport, and aims to grow the aviation revenue in the airport, and gain more tourists and customers.