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Mar 20, 2017

Only another nine years of country flight fights for Sydney Airport

Screw the bush and their little planes! Another excellent result of selling essential public assets like airports to private monopolies

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Although obscured, this REX 340 has both props attached

The bickering about rural flight access to Sydney Airport has flared up again, and if long suffering country travellers are lucky, it might end as soon as 2026 when the harbour city gets a new airport at Badgerys Creek in its west.

Then again… One of the problems of access to airports under any sort of enterprising management is the pressure to sweat the asset and fly the largest possible aircraft for every precious slot, and to hell with the consequences.

This report in the Sydney Morning Herald has caught the main combatants at their candid best today, but the debate has flared regularly, using ministers and spokespersons past, even before Sydney Airport was privatised in 2002.

There was for example, a period when regional carriers Kendell and Hazelton were in play following the collapse of Ansett, when they were at risk of being bought by a major airline like Qantas and having their access to the country’s major airport converted into more interstate jet flights.

Kendell and Hazelton were instead consolidated into REX, a mostly highly profitable country wide rural operation which is currently in the news for managing to lose a propellor off one of its SAAB 340 turprops on approach to Sydney Airport last week.

The formation and survival of REX has probably saved countless country lives from becoming part of the road toll by offering economic time saving alternatives to lousy highways in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland as well as NSW, but REX might need to pay more attention, pending an ATSB investigation, to the vital connection between propellers and wings.

The brawl going on over rural flights access to Sydney is one that is also of increasing relevance to Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide airports, although in Melbourne, some regional services are trying to make a go out of flying to Essendon, just down the highway where all those DFO shopping billboards are found.

If you live in the country, or need to fly there, the large airports will try to screw you out of your tiny little annoying turboprops so that they can make more money out of bigger aircraft. It’s business. That why the Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, is there plugging the interests of big money (and big gas)  instead of the farmers because that’s his shtick.

Minister Constance’s departure from the song sheets when it comes to governments backing businesses over the interests of consumers is fascinating. But will it end well?

Postscript: By the time Badgerys Creek is transformed into Sydney West the upscaling of rural services will become more apparent. By 2026 the likes of Coffs Harbour, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo and Port Macquarie, and many other country centres, will have seen tentative jet services become the norm, and jets the size of A320s or 737 will likely be taking on possible larger versions of today’s turboprops on shorter routes.

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