Flight times nosedive
AN urgent investigation is needed to find ways to improve the on-time performance at the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport, says councillor and mayoral candidate Sharon Cadwallader.
She said figures from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport showed 34.5% of Ballina flights arrived late in Sydney.
"Our airport's performance in turning flights around is the worst in the country," she said.
"It's not good for locals and it doesn't look good for tourism."
Cr Cadwallader blamed "thinly stretched" ground services and "over the top" security for delays. She also said baggage services for jets were "sometimes handled by a single worker, delaying aircraft departures and creating frustrating waits".
The airport's manager, Neil Weatherson, said he was "disappointed" by the criticism.
"Our on-time performance has been improving," he said.
"For the period June 24 to July 14, Ballina was Jetstar's top airport in Australia for on-time performance. For the week July 15 to 21 we were third best.
"We are building this into a top regional airport.
"But there are a lot of factors that we can't control. Airlines employ their own staff, including baggage staff, and the screening is a regulatory requirement.
"One of the problems we do have is that passengers turn up late for their flights."
Another problem highlighted by Cr Cadwallader was the "bunching" of arrivals.
"Ballina doesn't have the facilities to efficiently handle three passenger planes at a time."
Mr Weatherson admitted the airport could become congested.
But he said they had to work around the airlines' timetables.
"If councillors want me to build a bigger airport, I am happy to spend the money," he said.