Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, the aviation gateway of the Coffs Coast, boasts a wide range of facilities and services that surpass most other regional airports.
Coffs Harbour Regional Airport is currently serviced by three carriers, with direct flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne – QantasLink, Virgin Australia and Brindabella Airlines.
In addition, the airport has the facilities and capacity to service international flights and is the base for a stack of other aviation businesses that call the Coffs Coast home.
Located just 5 minutes from the CBD, Coffs Harbour Regional Airport is one of the most accessible airports in the country. Since its humble beginnings as a simple airfield in 1928, the airport is now a busy and contemporary facility.
Owned and operated by Coffs Harbour City Council since 1984, as a self funding business unit of the Council, the airport incurs no cost to local ratepayers and is a major economic driver for the region.
In keeping with the strong growth of the Coffs Coast, the terminal has been regularly updated and refurbished, to ensure that it continues to provide modern facilities and infrastructure within a pleasant environment for its users.
Today, the airport is one of the largest and busiest regional airports in New South Wales, handling regional, domestic and international style aircraft.
With its main runway – 2,080 m long by 45 m wide – the airport is capable of handling most jet aircraft types up to wide body jets such as the Boeing 767. Coffs Harbour Airport is also designated as a restricted International Airport.
“Not many people are aware of the fact that the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport runway is actually longer and wider than those at the Sunshine Coast and Mackay airports, which handle two-and-a-half to three times as many passengers per year,” explains Airport Manager, Dennis Martin.
“In fact, our runway was even longer than the Gold Coast’s runway until theirs was upgraded in 2007, and the Gold Coast handles more than 4 million passengers a year.”
The Coffs Harbour Regional Airport provides commercial and general aviation facilities, a charter facility, aircraft maintenance services, a café/news kiosk/gift shop and an ATM machine.
The airport is also home to state-of-the-art security and baggage handling systems, a 24-hour security carpark, an array of car rental companies and a full service travel agency.
The general aviation sector of the airport hosts a variety of service operators, including helicopter flights, pilot training and sky diving, to name just a few.
The airport’s fully air-conditioned terminal building underwent major improvements last year, including; repainting, new carpet, additional seating in the Biggles Café area and new flat screen televisions in the departure lounges.
“We are extremely fortunate to have such a diverse range of service providers based in and around the airport, who contribute to the uniqueness of this facility,” says Mr Martin.
“Airports these days are much more than a transit hall for airline passengers. In regional areas, we have the opportunity to become more closely aligned with community needs and expectations.”
Currently, the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport is enjoying strong growth in what is a somewhat subdued market.
Airlines nationally are experiencing difficult trading conditions as a result of recent natural disasters, the high Australian dollar and the economic downturn.
The 2010/11 financial year proved to be a record for the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, with almost 340,000 passengers utilising the facility – which is a growth of 6.5% on the previous year.
Coffs also enjoys one of the most convenient flight schedules in regional Australia, as a result of the mix of Q400 turbo prop and jet aircraft.
Air travellers have a choice of seven flights a day to Sydney, a daily flight to Brisbane, a weekly direct jet service to Melbourne and convenient ongoing connections to other major cities in Australia and overseas.
Airport Management is also working closely with the airlines to increase services on this route in a timely and commercially viable manner.
The matter of direct international flights from Coffs Harbour is often raised; however, the only possible route that may prove viable in the short to medium-term is New Zealand.
“Unfortunately, the trans-Tasman route is currently over serviced from both Sydney and Brisbane, and a direct flight from Coffs Harbour could not compete with the fares on offer on those routes at this stage. In addition, Coffs does not have Customs, Immigration and Quarantine services based here, which adds significantly to the cost of potential international operations,” explains Mr Martin.
“We believe that it is much more sensible to grow our domestic markets in a sustainable and risk-free manner, in order to achieve long-term benefits for all concerned. For example, a weekly flight to New Zealand would generate an additional 18,000 potential visitors a year, whereas a daily flight to Melbourne would provide capacity for an additional 110,000 passengers, at no additional cost.”
Coffs Harbour has enjoyed a consistently high standard of air services over a long period of time, as a result of a close working relationship with the airlines, which has resulted in sustainable growth and improved services.
“We have seen many instances of other airports losing services, because they proved to be unviable after short periods of operation,” Mr Martin explains.
2011 was a hugely successful year for the Airport. Mr Martin lists the following amongst the highlights:
• Successfully hosting the Service Centre for the World Rally Championships;
• Supporting the QLD Floods Appeal, which was coordinated by Biggles Flight Lounge staff. 150 large boxes and 30 bags of goods were sent to needy communities in the Grantham area;
• Hosting the opening night of the Utopian Dream Dance Festival in January;
• Commencing the new shuttle bus services in May;
• Congratulating another team of young Air Niugini cadets graduating as pilots after being trained at Professional Pilot Training;
• QantasLink introducing the first stage of their Next Generation check-in system.
And it looks as though this successful trend is set to continue for 2012, with more major projects on the drawing board, including:
• Extending the airport apron to increase parking for large aircraft;
• Building a new road to provide airside access for heavy vehicles such as freight, fuel and fire trucks;
• Expanding the parking facilities for buses, shuttle buses and taxis;
• Resurfacing the main runway.
“I also look forward to working with our airline and aviation industry partners to further improve airport services and infrastructure over the next few years,” Mr Martin says.
The airport is well-positioned to accommodate a substantial amount of growth over the next ten years, with very little additional capital expenditure required on infrastructure and resources, over and above the usual cost of maintenance, repairs and programmed capital works.
Coffs Harbour Regional Airports is one of the best regional airports in Australia and will continue to contribute to the growth and prosperity of this region for many years to come.