Ballina chasing new air routes
FLIGHTS between Ballina and Newcastle could soon become a reality, as the manager of the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport looks for ways to double passenger numbers.
Neil Weatherson admits his target of getting at least 500,000 passengers a year by 2015 is ‘optimistic', but he is still going to chase it.
The airport currently handles about 270,000 passengers a year.
Mr Weatherson also told Ballina Shire councillors this week he was confident of finding an airline to reinstate the Melbourne service which was axed by Jetstar in August last year.
He also said he was in talks to start a Ballina-Newcastle route, and possibly even a Ballina-Brisbane route.
“I'm talking with two potential carriers regarding the Newcastle service, but at this stage I'm not able to name them,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a substantial drop in numbers year on year because we lost the Melbourne service.
“But I do believe there is a realopportunity to get that back, it justdepends on the carrier.
“Airlines have made money on the route before.”
Mr Weatherson is also keen to tackle the airport's ‘terrible reputation' for on-time performance.
He said the installation of Jetstar check-in kiosks could help alleviate waiting times.
“There is a blame game going on at the moment,” he said.
“The airlines are saying the screening point is holding them up, that the infrastructure can't handle quick check-ins.
“So a new screening point will help.”
Other refurbishments being planned for the airport over the next six months include changes to thedeparture and arrival lounges.
Ballina Shire Council is also in the process of buying land so a security fence can be installed around theentire perimeter.
In the longer term, Mr Weatherson says a new runway overlay – costing at least $4.5 million – will need to be considered.