AS DEBATE rages over whether Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) should waive airport screening charges for Regional Express (Rex), new figures have revealed it could provide a cash windfall for ratepayers.
Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said the company would be interested in running a Sydney-Tamworth service but insists it should not be subject
to the same airport screening charge as QantasLink flights.
Under federal law, commercial planes weighing less than 20 tonnes, like Rex’s Saab 340s, do not require passengers to be screened at regional airports.
“Our point has always been that we’re prepared to come to Tamworth – without the additional screening charges ... we’re not legally required to pay it,” Mr Sharp said.
“If we were to agree to pay Tamworth, all the other towns (we operate in) would then charge us.”
Figures obtained by The Leader from council’s website show the airport screened 68,889 passengers in the 2012-13 financial year – but council needs to screen 94,117 passengers in order to recover its screening costs, equating to a $214,438 shortfall in screening fees.
This means 25,228 extra passengers need to be screened to help cover costs.
If Rex put on three return flights daily on its 34-seater aircraft, this could see up to 56,000 extra passengers travel per year, still below its projected figure
for the new Armidale-Sydney route.
If Rex carried 56,000 passengers per year, landing fees and passenger charges could generate more than $1 million per year for Tamworth Regional Council.
This would more than easily cover the annual $214,438 shortfall in screening fees.
But Tamworth mayor Col Murray said it was “unlikely a whole lot of new customers” would substantially push up Tamworth Airport passenger numbers merely because cheaper flights were offered.
“It’s not a reasonable assumption,” Cr Murray said.
Tamworth Aero Club president Adele Mazoudier said the club was “willing to discuss” using the club premises as a potential spot for unscreened passengers to pass through.
“We are willing to talk with council to solve the current problem,” Ms Mazoudier said.
“Comments from the travelling public and club members seem to reflect the opinion Tamworth would benefit from a second
carrier – and certainly a carrier on the Brisbane leg.”