In the aviation context, Australia has always been unique. Firstly it’s a long haul destination from almost anywhere else in the world, and secondly, when you get there it’s a huge continent with long distances to travel. Aviation has always been seen as the answer to both these problems. The history of long distance flight is littered with records and endeavors to and from Australia and within the country itself. Qantas is the classic example, the company’s heritage rooted in providing a domestic outback service before evolving into the model of how to do it for just about every other long haul operator in the world.
None of these geographical facts have changed over the years of commercial aviation. This year Qantas clocks up an impressive 88 years of operation — the second oldest airline in the world. (Quiz: Name the oldest airline!)
Increased Industry Growth
What is changing is the way the industry is structured, the growth in just about every sector of operations, and implementation of long-term planning — like never before.
The driver in Australia is a strong economy led by record exports of minerals, natural gas and all associated business activity this generates. Australia is on a roll and a long-term roll at that — one that has grounded economic confidence to order up new aircraft and plan expansion across the whole transportation sector.
The Airbus order book for the region stands at 96 aircraft. Boeing stands at a whopping 140, made up of 49 B737s and 78 B787s.
Record breaking statistics and a full order book for the aircraft manufacturers also represent an associated increase in activity for ground support suppliers across all parts of the industry. Every new route, new carrier and airport expansion represent a marketing opportunity for businesses selling everything from software to the toughest, rugged hardware.
One big growth area has been driven by the “fly in, fly out” staffing of the mineral, energy and construction sector.
These operations are invariably remote from any established communities and all the supplies, equipment and importantly, people must be flown in and out. This has represented big contracts for some smaller charter operators, providing them with a long-term basis on which to re-equip and build their businesses. All that extra traffic requires ground services, maintenance and flight crew. It has been a challenge to get those facilities in place so quickly, find qualified people and train new staff.
The pressure is on
The imperative of huge production goals drives solutions but the pressure is really on to sustain services.
In the west and north of the country, five large players have emerged: Qantaslink, Skippers, Alliance, Skywest and Air North. Scheduled services to remote outback towns are augmented by regular charters in and out of mine sites — often on a daily basis.
Healthy contracts for government work have been awarded to several medium-sized contractors like Skytraders, who have such diverse work as a weekly A319 charter to the scientific base in Antarctica. Logistics support for the Australian UN peacekeeping operations in Timor, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan has stretched the capacity for the major players and opened up contract work for the handful of operators who have the capacity to handle this extra business. National Jet Systems, based in Adelaide, is a major player. The Royal Australian Air Force is about to take delivery of a fourth C130. These new aircraft will earn their keep on Australian Defence Force missions.
Qantas and their budget brand, Jetstar, dominate the domestic scene, along with Virgin Blue and their international product Pacific Blue.
Tiger Airways arrived late last year with the best prices in town and made a first price-based impression, however, a limited network and fleet will keep the Tiger caged for a while but that will change. As well as providing a domestic service, Tiger feeds into the northern hub of Darwin where they connect to their extensive Asian network and a very strong budget tourism market.