Ongoing flight delays and cancellations at Tamworth airport causing concerns for council

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Councillor Juanita Wilson is leading calls for more reliable flight service. Photo: Peter Hardin
CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Councillor Juanita Wilson is leading calls for more reliable flight service. Photo: Peter Hardin

Ongoing drama

THERE are more passengers flooding through the gates at Tamworth airport, but delays and cancelled flights are playing havoc with locals and visitors alike.

Medicinal cannabis advocate Lucy Haslam had two meetings with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian postponed due to flight dramas.

Mrs Haslam is still fighting to improve access to medical cannabis for the nation’s most-ill, regularly meeting with ministers and advisers around the country.

However, delays are slowing up progress for the campaigner.

Mrs Haslam was due to meet Ms Berejiklian for the first time in Sydney last Monday, however, technical issues saw the flight delayed and the meeting postponed.

She said she also experienced delays on Thursday with technical issues pushing back a flight home to Tamworth.

While the delay issues at Tamworth have been thrust back in the spotlight, the airport is coming off on of its busiest periods ever, with record numbers coming through the gates.

The airport is regularly welcoming more that 16,000 passengers through the gates every month.

Tamworth Regional Council manager of airport and aviation development Julie Stewart said in “the last 12 months, one month has had passenger numbers over 18,000”.

“Three months have had over 17,000, eight months have had over 16,000,” she said.

For 25 consecutive months, the airport’s passenger tally has grown compared to the same month 12 months previous.

SAFE LANDING: Qantas flight touches down in Tamworth on Tuesday morning. Photo: Peter Hardin

SAFE LANDING: Qantas flight touches down in Tamworth on Tuesday morning. Photo: Peter Hardin

A spokesperson for QantasLink said there had only been three flights cancelled, so far, in April.

“We know that delays and cancellations can be frustrating for our customers and we will always do our best to avoid them,” a spokesperson said.

“There have been three cancellations this month from 80 scheduled services.”

The spokesperson said the Qantas cancellations were putting safety ahead of schedule.

“In most cases customers were accommodated on flights within three hours of their original flight,” he said.

“We will always prioritise safety over schedule.”

There were no significant delays over the Easter long weekend, with only one flight from Sydney to Tamworth pushed back by 20 minutes on Monday.

All six flights from Tamworth to Sydney left on time or early on Monday

Delays are bad for business: councillor

FLIGHT delays and cancellations are costing Tamworth in a direct business sense, says one councillor, as the call for action amps up.

Councillor Juanita Wilson knows of at least one company that won’t be holding conferences in town after a poor experience with delays.

But Cr Wilson said unreliable flight services were costing people money and making them miss important appointments.

Health specialists fly in to Tamworth to service patients from around the region, Cr Wilson said.

“If they get on delayed flights, appointments from the start of the day are deferred and the ones at the end of the day are cancelled,” she said.

“A patient could come from Narrabri to see a paediatrician, a cancer or a skin specialist only to have their appointment cancelled.”

Cr Wilson called on council to lobby state and federal members to rectify flight issues about six months ago, but the problems are still happening.

“I will bring it up again,” she said. “Tamworth needs to be a reliable destination for business and social events.”

Cr Wilson said “travel arrangements out of Tamworth are becoming speculative” with, seemingly, no guarantees about departures and arrivals and said she would prefer to trade less flights scheduled than more and more delays.

Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson

Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson

The councillor also called on Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson to take a stand on the issue.

The state member said he recently had a meeting with QantasLink chief executive John Gissing.

“We talked about a lot things for Tamworth, particularly around the fact there were some concerns around delays, cancellations and rescheduling,” Mr Anderson told The Leader.

“The thing that they told me was that all of their aircraft are fully utilised. So, if an aircraft becomes unserviceable, that sends pretty much the whole regional network into a spin.”