THE ongoing drought and flight schedule changes are thought to be responsible for Tamworth airport’s first dip in passenger numbers in years.
The airport is coming off a record-breaking 2017 and four years of continuous growth, however during the 2017/18 financial year, Tamworth saw a 3.6 per cent decline in passenger numbers.
While that only represents about 700 fewer passengers, NSW Business Chamber’s regional manager Joe Townsend said it was one of the first signs that families and business across the region were starting to feel the drought pinch.
“Businesses are starting to restrict their belts a bit,” Mr Townsend said.
“The agriculture businesses aren’t booming and the retail sector isn’t booming.
“Those dollars do flow on and that disposable cash just isn’t there for individuals.
“A lot of kids from farms board in Sydney or Brisbane. Without that spare cash, it’s harder for them to fly back during school holidays, and the parents don’t have the finance to fly up and visit them.”
Despite the dip, Tamworth is still among the best performing regional airports in the state, with just over 192,000 passengers in the last financial year, which equals about 545 passenger movements a day.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the airport had seen “an incredible run of growth”, and put the drop down to a combination of factors.
“There’s probably some reflection in the reduction of flights – JetGo going of our radar, and the flight adjustment of QantasLink,” Cr Murray said.
“I’ll be very interested to see what next year’s figures look like.”
Tamworth Regional Council’s business director John Sommerlad said in the past five years, the airport’s passenger numbers had grown by 23 per cent while scheduled flights had increased by 30 per cent.
“The demand for flights is the strongest on record with average load factors regularly above 70 per cent,” Mr Sommerlad said.
Most routes aim for a load factor – or percentage of seats occupied – for above 60 per cent.
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