Kevin Anderson to speak with federal minister over Tamworth airport woes

TAMWORTH MP Kevin Anderson will hold crisis talks with key aviation players next week as tensions mount over air slot allocations into Sydney airport.

Speaking exclusively to The Leader, Mr Anderson said he would meet with Darren Chester, Federal Transport Minister, and New England MP Barnaby Joyce in Canberra on Monday in a bid to find a solution to the problem.

The meeting follows the announcement last month that Virgin Australia would scale back night time services from six flights a week to three due to time slot allocations.

Mr Anderson said he is also scheduled to meet with Australian Airport Coordination Australia CEO Petra Popovac in Sydney on Wednesday.

The State MP had earlier vowed to find a solution to the city's slot woes amid fears that the future economic prospects of the city could be harmed if prime-time slots into Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport were not retained.

Canberra bound: Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson.

Canberra bound: Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson.

"Basically I want to look at what we have to do to open up those slots," Mr Anderson said.  

"Is it squeezing the amount of time between landings to create more slots? Or do we look into a use-it-or-lose-it policy for major airlines who have slots and don't use them."

We are leading the charge for regional NSW. - Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson

Mr Anderson said there were solutions to the problem and he wanted to work with aviation bodies to find the best fit for the area.

He said there was also interest from the community, who took to social media to express their frustration. 

"Everyone has taken a very keen interest, there has been a lot of activity on social media and we are looking at what we can do to fix this,” Mr Anderson said. 

"We are leading the charge for regional NSW, other regional members are now backing me up and wishing me well in terms of what we need to do for regional NSW."

Mr Anderson’s representations follow a push from smaller regional airlines for equality on slot choices.

Airspeed Aviation director Ben Wyndham last week said that he would not be investing in aircraft for a service between Narrabri and Sydney unless the slots into Sydney were guaranteed.

Mr Wyndham said he had been lobbying politicans at the state and federal level over the issue and that time slots into the state’s capital should match local market demands.

”It’s like restricting a shop to opening between midnight and 4am – the times people don’t want the service,” he said.

“The fact is, to be ready you’re going to have to spend a couple of million on an airplane, and I’m not rushing in to create debt until I’ve got the work to pay it back with.

“The question remains as to what happens next.”

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