The various curfews and restrictions in place at Sydney Airport are threatening to derail the booming tourism industry our economy relies on, and unless there’s some change, we’ll be seeing a lot less visitors landing on Aussie shores.
At least these are the ominous sentiments of Tourism & Transport Forum Australia’s (TTF) CEO Margy Osmond, who says these restrictions are sabotaging decades of global campaigns to attract tourists.
“It’s time for action on the crippling constraints which limit aircraft movements during the airport’s operating hours, impacting the national aviation network and the national economy,” Osmond said.
“These restrictions must to be reviewed to enable the growth of our international visitor economy to continue.”
Beyond the curfew, Sydney’s constraints on aircraft operations include:
- Maximum of 80 aircraft arrival and departure ‘slots’ per operational hour (slot cap)
- Maximum of 80 aircraft movements per operational hour (movement cap)
- Aircraft activity measured every 15 minutes, restricting movements to 20 per 15 minutes, and
- No flexibility to reschedule delayed aircraft to the next 15-minute block, even while continuing to meet the hourly limit of 80 movements.
Osmond says a surge in visitor numbers, particularly from China, Korea, Japan and the US, had increased long-haul flights to Sydney, with many arriving early in the morning.
But airlines increasingly are unable to secure early access at times their passengers most want to arrive, or when long-haul aircraft arrive early. Instead of being cleared to land, early-arriving planes are often directed to circle outside Sydney.
In addition, Osmond insists the 15-minute assessment intervals of aircraft movement were “restrictions within restrictions”, and compared it to London’s Heathrow Airport, which has annual caps on movements, not hourly or 15-minute checks.
“Aircraft noise and emissions have dropped dramatically, and airlines continue to invest billions of dollars in larger, next-generation aircraft, which produce a fraction of the noise and emissions of their predecessors,” said Osmond.
“Yet today’s space-age planes are restricted by stone-age regulations, and we are increasingly constraining the ability of international tourists to enter our country, many of them at the end of long overnight flights. This can only hurt Australia’s growing visitor economy.”
Instead, TTF has a few suggestions of its own for the Government to ensure the tourism industry doesn’t suffer because of silly restrictions:
- Increase hourly slot caps and movement caps to 90 aircraft per hour to meet peak demand and prepare for growth not just in international traffic, but also domestic flights
- Eliminate the 15-minute measure, to enable much greater flexibility in aircraft movements within the legislated hourly caps, and
- Align aircraft slot and movement rules at Sydney Airport with other developments such as airport terminal expansion, in readiness for expected increases in tourist arrivals.
Osmond says as other industries dwindle, tourism is more important than ever for Australia’s economy.
“Governments claim to recognise tourism as a key driver of economic growth, but are failing to back up their warm words with sensible, measured operational reforms at our largest international gateway,” she said.
“It’s now time to ensure that the nation’s largest airport, and the national aviation network, is ready and able to accommodate the huge volumes of visitors we have invited here. Without immediate action, we will squander the tourism gains we have worked so hard to achieve.”