Call for better Sydney airport use
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti is urging a review of the cap on the number of flights every hour at Sydney Airport as debate is set to heat up about making better use of the existing airport.
In the wake of the Coalition proposing a rethink of the business and charter planes able to fly during the overnight curfew, Mr Borghetti said it made sense to also reconsider relaxing both the hourly flight cap and the use of the so-called shoulder periods from 5am to 6am and 11pm to midnight.
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has proposed lifting the cap on flights from 80 to 85 flights an hour, and allowing more to land during the "curfew shoulder" at Kingsford Smith, in preference to building a second Sydney airport.
This is not part of the federal Coalition's aviation policy, but it has said that the use of quieter planes by private and business charters means that a review of the list of aircraft allowed during the 11pm to 6am curfew is warranted.
It maintains this would not result in an increase in the number of flights during the curfew period.
It has also promised to nominate a site for a second Sydney airport within the next three years.
Mr Borghetti said it made sense to relax the cap of 80 flights an hour at Kingsford Smith during the off-peak period when a large portion of people were at work.
"Primarily [the concern] is about noise. But ... in most cases people are not in the houses during the day - they are out working," he said in an interview.
"Why wouldn't you relax that cap during non-peak hours?"
Mr Borghetti said there was demand from airlines - especially low-cost and international carriers - to operate more flights during the off-peak period in the middle of the day.
"Low-cost carriers operate non-peak because they schedule their aircraft differently and their market is different. Have a look at all airlines internationally.
"If you want to go to LA [Los Angeles], or you want to go to London, most flights leave between 11am and 5pm," he said.
"I think a review is certainly justified."
Mr Borghetti said a relaxation of the cap on the use of the shoulder periods would also help alleviate the problem for airlines in timing flights from Sydney to arrive at busy airports in cities such as London, Los Angeles and Singapore.
Qantas said the hourly cap and curfew at Sydney Airport was unlikely to change in the near future.
"However, there is still considerable potential for operational efficiencies to improve the operation of the airport," a spokesman said.
Under the existing rules, no more than 24 international passenger aircraft are allowed to land each week during the shoulder periods between 5am and 6am, and 11pm and midnight.
A number of small freighter and corporate jets are also permitted to land and take off at the airport during the curfew.
These aircraft have to take off and land over Botany Bay.
Any decision on relaxing the cap and curfew rests with the federal Transport Minister in waiting, Warren Truss.