17/09/2008 - 22:00

It’s all about timing

17/09/2008 - 22:00

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SKYWEST says its investments in an expanded jet fleet and overcoming congestion issues at Perth airport will substantially improve its struggling on-time performance.

It’s all about timing

SKYWEST says its investments in an expanded jet fleet and overcoming congestion issues at Perth airport will substantially improve its struggling on-time performance.

According to the latest Airline On Time Performance report by Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Skywest achieved 73 per cent on time departures and 71 per cent on time arrivals, which was around the national average.

The airline cancelled four flights during the month, namely return flights between Perth and Broome and Perth and Kalgoorlie, according to the report.

The report only included flights on competitive routes and not those solely operated by Skywest.

Skywest's July 2008 performance was an improvement on the same time last year, where the airline cancelled nine flights, mostly between Perth and Kalgoorlie.

On-time performance, however, has declined compared to the same time last year, with 84 per cent of departures and 80 per cent of arrivals coming in on time in July 2007.

Skywest chief executive Paul Daff said the airline had focused heavily on its on-time performance this year.

Mr Daff said Skywest would grow its jet fleet from three earlier this year to eight by October, which should improve service and on-time performance.

"Late last year, we were going through some growing pains trying to do too much," he said.

Issues with Perth Airport continue to play a role in delays, with the airline being forced to put in actions to try and overcome congestion problems.

These included moving its Fokker 50 aircraft further away from the terminal and bussing passengers to the aircraft, making room for some of the bigger aircraft servicing interstate routes at the terminal.

"Bigger aircraft take priority, so regional WA does suffer to some extent," Mr Daff said.

Skywest has also changed timing on some of its services to avoid the airport's peak time of early morning.

Mr Daff added there had also been some issues with the shortage of air traffic control staff, which at times had caused delays.

The airline's record on flight cancellations over the past two years has been a shaky one, reaching its lowest point in early 2007 when cancellations averaged between 3 per cent to 8 per cent of all flights each month between January to June 2007.

The Perth-Kalgoorlie service was the worst performer in terms of cancelled flights, averaging about 15 per cent of all flights being cancelled a month over the six months, and reaching as high as 30 per cent last April.

But the situation has improved significantly in the 2007-08 financial year, with the airline averaging 1.5 per cent or less of total fights cancelled a month during that time.

Intrastate air travel has almost doubled in the past two years, with about 2,000 regional flights now departing Perth Airport every month.

Nationals WA leader Brendon Grylls has floated the possibility of a special air transport subsidy scheme to help improve air passenger services to Geraldton, Esperance, Albany and other regional airports.

In a pre-election announcement, Mr Grylls said some communities believed that scheduling and on-time performance problems were a result of aircraft being taken off routes in favour of fly-in, fly-out charters.

But Mr Daff rejected that notion, saying the airline gave the same amount of attention to both the fly-in, fly-out and regular passenger transport services.

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