BALLINA-Byron Gateway Airport is poised to claim its share of a new $50 million state funding package, with a $6 million proposal to triple the size of its departure lounge.
NSW Minister for Regional Tourism John Barilaro last week announced the funding package for regional airports, with Expressions of Interest due by March 31.
Ballina-Byron is competing with 30 other airports across the state for a share, but airport manager Neil Weatherson said the facility had a strong case.
"It's the right time for us," he said. "We can show there's a need for the project; we can show there's a benefit to our passengers and the region. We're basically ready to go if we had the funding."
The airport has experienced close to 10% growth each year for the past five years.
"We're currently the second largest airport in regional NSW after Newcastle," Mr Weatherson said.
The $6 million plan would allocate $4.5 million for the new departure terminal, creating twice as much seating, more shops, cafes and toilets, and a sports bar.
On top of this, a new set-down loop road would be built to the west side of the terminal.
The design would enable passengers to access the carpark, shuttle buses and taxis on three separate sides without crossing any roads. A second, later, stage would create a new arrivals lounge, and new car park and road costed at $4.5 million.
Mr Weatherson said he wanted to create a stress-free environment akin to the Gold Coast where passengers could pass through security and relax before boarding their flight.
He predicted that with the right expansion, Ballina-Byron could go from 440,000 passengers a year now to more than 750,000.
He said that Coolangatta was pushing its capacity limit and the overflow was putting pressure on Ballina, particularly for the lucrative Byron Bay market.
"Byron Bay's a big market for us," Mr Weatherson said.
Ballina MP Don Page said he strongly supported the application.