Ground staff and a Jetstar A320: Jetstar photo

Somewhat sidelined by the Qantas mess, its subsidiary Jetstar is being courted by Victoria’s state government as to what it is worth not to quit Melbourne’s second airport at Avalon.

In a sense it is the same dilemma Government in Canberra faces with calls for various inducements to rescue Qantas from the consequences of five years of demonstrably bad management.

That is how does one stop Qantas or Jetstar flick passing any aid they may get to failed overseas ventures rather than persuading Qantas to accept strict management intervention to keep any monetary advantage generated by governmental assistance in Australia, rather than in one of Joyce’s Asia based projects.

Jetstar’s informal warning of a cancellation of its Avalon Airport services may not be surprising in itself, but this is a story with history and complexity.

Avalon was the original headquarters for Jetstar when it launched on the domestic market in 2004. The airline used Avalon for some of its flights to ‘differentiate’ itself, where practicable, from Qantas by using a different airport to the main Melbourne Airport at Tullamarine, which also charged much higher fees.

However the original idea of segregating the Jetstar and Qantas brands by routes and schedules ended when Tiger Airways first appeared on the scene three years later, and Avalon frequencies dwindled because Tiger used Tullamarine, which was less difficult to access from much of greater Melbourne.

The development of the T4 low fare brand terminal at Melbourne Airport is almost certainly also terminal for Jetstar continuing at Avalon.

Despite such setbacks as a diminishing if not vanishing Jetstar presence, and the loss of Qantas engineering and maintenance work, Avalon does have a future.  But it is probably the future generated by its proximity to expanding residential and business activity in the western parts of the Melbourne sprawl.

As Geelong recovers, as it will, in its post auto industry phase, it will also generate air travellers who will see it as far preferable to Tullamarine for some flights.  Expect Avalon within a few years to be an ATR72 and Q400 turbo-prop scheduled airport, as well as quite possibly attracting international flights by holiday or low cost carriers from Asia.

Avalon will be much bigger one day, but maybe one day too far for its current owner. And it may yet face future competition from an airport in SE Melbourne.

Its setback as Melbourne’s second airport in the medium term doesn’t carry any cautionary lessons for the plans for a second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

The Sydney West site is easy to link to three motorways, the M4, M5 and M7, Avalon only has the Geelong freeway.  The Sydney site is much closer to and now more convenient for much of the Sydney suburban sprawl than Avalon is to the Melbourne sprawl, and there is a higher closer density of business travel and logistics or parcel express customers.

Sydney also has an underperforming curfew limited airport today which is diabolically inconvenient from many parts of greater Sydney, while Melbourne International has no curfew, and room for additional runways.

Which is why it is quite possible for a future Jetstar to have a network that will fly to two Sydney Airport, while it might only fly to one Melbourne airport, and not return to Avalon until well after Sydney West becomes a reality, if it is assumed that the project for Badgerys Creek goes ahead with urgency in the near future.

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