OPERATING screened and unscreened passenger departures in parallel would be “fairly simple” to implement at the Dubbo airport, and would just require Dubbo City Council to “think outside the box” and submit a plan to the Office of Transport Security.
That is the view of Regional Express (Rex) general manager of network strategy and sales Warrick Lodge, who said Albury and Wagga Wagga airports allowed screened and unscreened passengers to depart from the same terminal.
“And at Mildura, Rex passengers are screened because the terminal design is not conducive to otherwise, but Mildura took the decision that Rex passengers wouldn’t be included in the cost recovery,” he said.
“Wagga airport had the same layout as Dubbo - there were no changes to the building, we just rearranged the gates.
“All it cost was the cost of the signs. It’s a similar case in Albury.
“All we need is an area to depart that doesn’t cross paths with the sterile (screened) passengers.
“Dubbo City Council is carrying out terminal upgrades at the moment and it would have been the perfect time to facilitate both screened and unscreened passengers.
“But they want to screen all passengers so they don’t have to impose all the costs onto QantasLink. QantasLink has had input into the process and of course they want Rex to be captured in this cost.”
But Dubbo mayor Mathew Dickerson referred to the Hansard transcript of a Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee hearing October 16, 2012.
The Hansard transcript had raised serious questions about the value of security screening at Wagga Wagga airport was because only QantasLink and not Rex passengers were screened.
“They were having a bit of a joke but essentially it was saying if I was a terrorist I’d go to Wagga and get on a Rex flight because you could have a briefcase full of bombs and jump on because you wouldn’t be screened,” he said.
“That’s an extreme case but it seems ridiculous if you have a situation where passengers on one plane are more important than another.”
Cr Dickerson said council had invited Rex to meetings to discuss several charging scenarios but the airline had not put anything forward other than that it did not want to pay the extra charges.
Cr Dickerson said the charges would be calculated on a pro-rata basis and the additional cost would be closer to $4.50 per passenger, dependent on passenger numbers.
“For that little bit of peace of mind, I don’t mind paying $4.50,” he said.
“For Rex, well, that’s a business decision. Nowhere else does Rex fly seven return flights a day. Dubbo is the number one airport for Rex and they run those services because they are profitable.
“If $4.50 a passenger makes them drop those services I can’t stop that. But we have to do the right thing for safety for passengers.”
Mr Lodge said the upgrades would inconvenience Rex passengers and that council had, without consultation, advised would-be passengers they needed to now be at the airport an hour before their flights.
“Our standard check-in for regional airports closes 20 minutes prior to departure. To ask that our business passengers are there at 5.30am for a 6.30am departure is ridiculous,” he said.
Mr Lodge said the impost not only meant that any hope of a Dubbo to Melbourne service was further away than ever, it jeopardized the airline’s existing services.
“We are not a big airline like Qantas. The cost of this screening will have a real impact on us,” he said.
“We’ve previously expressed concerns about servicing a Dubbo to Melbourne route, and in this current climate with the introduction of the carbon tax and the en-route rebate removal, more so than ever.
“Dubbo City Council is trying to attract airlines to the region but they’re making it unattractive for any other operator thinking of setting up the Dubbo to Melbourne route if they’re forced into an environment where screening is required at Dubbo airport and not elsewhere.
“Our priority is ensuring our services to Sydney remain viable. We currently offer alternative departure and arrival times to QantasLink but with this new cost we’ll review whether we continue those flights.”