Fact: Canberra and Newcastle airports are set to begin international operations this year.

In this article we ponder on the implications and future consequences of these to air-traffic in Sydney, with Western Sydney Airport (WSA) in mind.

Recent news articles in the Sydney Morning Herald reveal that Canberra airport is set to start international operations this year with Singapore Airlines being an early bird (see articles here and here in SMH). The airline will offer residents an international flight option that would avoid the need for a domestic link through Sydney or Melbourne. The airport is also relatively modern, can operate with no curfew, and its runway can be extended at a relatively low cost to accommodate the top end of wide body aircrafts.

Internal Canberra Airport documents suggest that a high speed rail (HSR) link between Sydney and Canberra has the potential to facilitate as many as 10 million passengers a year (see here, section "High speed rail"). The implications of this development on Kingsford Smith Airport (KSA) are three-fold:

  1. A reduction in the number of international passengers in KSA as a direct consequence of international flight options via Canberra Airport.
  2. A reduction in the number of domestic passengers in KSA due to (1). That is, those travelers from Canberra that would have used a domestic flight following by an international one from KSA.
  3. A reduction in the number of passengers in KSA due to competition that would be facilitated by the availability of high speed rail and other improvement in transport options between the cities.

Newcastle Airport also reached the headlines recently (see here and here). Following an injection of funding, the airport now supports ground operations such as customs and border security that facilitate international operations. These are set to begin this year with a high demand link to New Zealand. Undoubtedly, the availability of such a flight option would have a direct effect on KSA and the implications of this development on KSA match that of Canberra Airport. In fact, the prospect of having a HSR link between Newcastle and Sydney would also offer new Job opportunities to Newcastle, Central Coast and Hunter Valley residents, and would open up the overcrowded house market in the Sydney basin, making it a highly beneficial pathway.

We note that the development of both airports is pushed by local interests. Paradoxically, in the case of Canberra Airport, local interests contradict federal interests that support WSA. However, given that both Canberra and Newcastle airports are well positioned to expand in the near future, it is valid to assume that they are bound to pose serious competition in ten years' time when the WSA airport is set to start its operations. Therefore the viability of WSA and its profit margins must be recalculated to account for these developments. At the least, the risk factor should not fall on the tax payer and/or local residents (e.g. a no curfew airport).