Virgin plans first flight

WESTRALIA Airports Corpor-ation is hoping to secure a deal with Virgin Blue to service the WA market by utilising existing infrastructure originally developed for Compass Airlines.

The corporation has pushed forward a proposal for Virgin Blue to fly domestic passengers in and out of Perth via the international terminal.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that, in April this year, 402,600 short-term visitors arrived in Australia. Figures collated by Westralia Airports Corporation suggests about 16 per cent of these arrivals touched down at Perth Airport.

The Bureau of Tourism Research International Visitor Survey estimated about 70 per cent of international visitor arrivals come into WA through Perth International Airport.

In the local market, Westralia Airports Corporation estimated the combined total of domestic arrivals and departures through Perth Airport in April was 301,320 passengers.

Corporation chief executive officer Graham Muir said talks with Virgin Blue regarding flights to Perth were well advanced.

“When Compass Mark 1 operated in Perth it operated through the Perth international terminal. It would be relatively simple for domestic passengers to be handled for Virgin,” Mr Muir said.

To handle domestic passengers the international terminal at Perth Airport needs to separate arriving and departing international and domestic passengers.

In essence, passengers can share the check-in facilities but departing passengers need to exit the building without getting involved in international activities like customs control and immi-gration.

Currently there is a system of roller doors in place that can be used to separate passengers and, if necessary, Westralia Airports Corporation could build a separate boarding air bridge for Virgin Blue.

“We have also done some designs for slightly more up-market facilities for departing passengers and we could add additional parts for a relatively small amount of money,” Mr Muir said.

However, as a low-cost airline, Virgin Blue will be focused on getting the planes in and out of Perth Airport without incurring any extra costs.

“An airline like Virgin doesn’t demand any up-market facilities,” Mr Muir said.

“In Adelaide they’re pretty well operating out of an old shed.”

He said the introduction of a new carrier to Perth Airport would not represent a significant financial gain for Westralia Airports Cor-poration, although there would be some additional revenue.

“We’re keen to see competition in the domestic market. Right now there are some quite substantial discounts for people travelling to and from Perth, Virgin will just increase that competition,” Mr Muir said.


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