The return of domestic commuter flights from the Illawarra is on the cards, with Shellharbour councillors set to examine whether there is demand and viability for regular passenger flights from Albion Park airport.
In a confidential session to be held on Tuesday night, councillors will be asked to discuss a consultants’ report on the feasibility of a regular Regional Passenger Transport (RPT), council staff said.
According to a council media release about the possible return of passenger flights to the Illawarra, councillors will be asked to determine whether there is a significant regional demand for such a service, and whether it would be viable into the long term.
The meeting will be closed to the public, with council staff citing “commercial confidence”. All documents relating to the passenger flights have also been classed as confidential.
The council media release says consultants were engaged to research the feasibility of passenger flights, but does not make clear whether the council or a particular flight carrier commissioned the report.
The new prospect of regional passenger flights comes almost a decade after Qantas stopped regular trips to Melbourne from the Illawarra.
The service operated for three years, from June 2005 to July 2008, when Qantas said it was winding down operations due to rising fuel costs and “shifting” demands.
According to the media release, the airport’s catchment area has a population base of about 300,000 people and includes the South Coast, Southern Highlands and Illawarra.
It is the largest metropolitan area in Australia without its own RPT service, the release said.
Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said a passenger flight service could cut travel time for people south of Sydney and provide a link to other regional areas.
“Councillors need to understand whether there is a strong business case for a regional passenger service from our airport which would also have benefits to the region and positive implications for the state,” she said.
“Passenger flights from within the Illawarra could be expected to significantly cut travel time for people south of Sydney wanting to fly to some popular Australian destinations and reduce road congestion and pressure on the state infrastructure.
“If they were to be established, these flights could provide a direct link from other regional and metropolitan centres of Australia … and may create more tourism and employment opportunities.
“The pre-existence of regional passenger flights from our airport indicates there is an existing level of acceptance in our community.”
The result of councillors’ vote will be made public after the meeting, a council spokeswoman said.