Marion Charlton the Gold Coast Airport Corporation General Manager Commercial and Terminals addressed a packed Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum at the regular venue, the Tweed Heads Bowls Club.
Gold Coast Airport Corporation purchased both the Townsville and Mt Isa Airports as they represented non-tourist markets to balance the Gold Coast Airport. Townsville has the military and Mt Isa the mines. In the tourism downturn on the Gold Coast, these purchases proved to be extremely provident.
The presentation by Marion Charlton incorporated a power point display illustrating the numerical separation of the Gold Coast Airport traffic in terms of tourism and business. They also demonstrated the number of domestic as opposed to international passenger traffic.
To this, Marion Charlton noted there were 5.4 mil passengers last year and that figure was expected to rise to 6 mil by the end of this year.
The Gold Coast Airport is the fifth largest domestic airport in Australia with flights north to Cairns, west to Perth and Adelaide, south to Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.
4th largest international airport
It is the fourth largest international airport in Australia, now surpassing Adelaide. The International carriers are Jetstar, Air Asia, Scoot, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia. They developed a strategy to compete with Brisbane International Airport and that was to become a low cost airline destination. This has worked well. They are now chasing a Chinese airline. To get Scoot, they needed to construct a sound-wall costing over $100,000.
Scoot flying into the Gold Coast has paid huge dividends to both the airline (whose flights are full) and the Gold Coast community. Marion Charlton revealed that she herself got on-line to the Scoot web site and is taking everyone in their family (except the dog) on an astonishing holiday to an Asia destination without anything like a large cheque book.
Every 5 years the Gold Coast Airport are required to undertake a Master Plan. They are currently adding two more terminals and have been approved for the runway landing 300 metres further back for larger aircraft. But they have yet to go the full measure and establish air bridges. Everyone walks (even in the rain).
In 12-18 months time they will have ILS approved for all weather landing which will be a huge advantage as everyone gets so frustrated when heavy weather or fog sets in and flights get diverted to Brisbane. Already the runway has better density landing airstrip lights which means fewer and fewer aircraft need to bypass the Gold Coast to land in Brisbane. Everyone is waiting for ILS to become operational.
Qantas returns domestically on 28 October for the Sydney-Gold Coast route. Qantas has taken over what was the Jetstar lounge and refurbishing it, while Virgin's lounge on the upper deck (the attic), has remarkable views.
Perennial baggage issues
My wife Delma and I fly in and out of the Gold Coast Airport regularly on mission trips, and after the Chamber of Commerce meeting I spoke to Marion Charlton about the baggage situation.
There is no greater area of complaint than the lateness of baggage coming through from the aircraft - Marion Charlton acknowledged that on one international flight it took an hour for baggage - horrendous for passengers, tourism operators, coach companies, accommodation providers, taxis, loved ones waiting and most of all, frustration and anger expressed to airline personnel.
Marion Charlton pointed out this is an airline issue, not a Gold Coast Airport issue. Every complaint is sent down the line to the airline and is pleased to report that the situation is improving. On the domestic front, we've waited for 20 minutes for more than one occasion, whereas Sydney for example (a mammoth airport), the wait is minimal.
Clearly there is a problem. Being "low cost" should not equate to shabby customer service on arrival. After a heavy duty mission trip the last thing my wife and I need is a headache with baggage retrieval. We're only the tip of the ice berg with 6 million customers.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html