Maintenance base closure leaves Avalon up in the air
The Lindsay Fox-owned airport at Avalon near Geelong concedes it will have to diversify its business in the wake of Qantas' decision to close its heavy aircraft maintenance base there by March.
The closure of the base is another blow for an airport whose passenger numbers have slumped to about 600,000 annually, from about 1 million two years ago. Tiger Air pulled its operations out of Avalon Airport in 2011 in the wake of its temporary grounding, while Jetstar has also reduced its services in recent years.
Avalon Airport chief executive Justin Giddings said the loss of the Qantas heavy maintenance base "presents a challenge" to find new tenants for three hangars - each 10,000 square metres - used for work on 747 jumbos.
It also has two other hangars of between 5000 and 10,000 square metres.
"It is a lot of space to fill. We have got to look at new opportunities," he said.
Mr Giddings said the hangars could be used for storage, military or search and rescue purposes.
Avalon has attempted to position itself as Victoria's second international airport after Tullamarine, but has not been able to attract foreign airlines despite numerous talks.
Philippines airline Cebu Pacific has indicated interest in flying to Avalon, which is 56 kilometres from Melbourne's CBD. However, it is understood to face hurdles in gaining the necessary air rights.
The closure of the facility at Avalon will leave Qantas with just one heavy aircraft maintenance base in Australia. Its remaining base in Brisbane does not have the ability to perform work on 747 aircraft, which means that work on Qantas' fleet of 15 jumbos is likely to be performed overseas once Avalon is closed.
Mr Giddings declined to detail the financial impact of the loss of the Qantas base but said "it's not crippling".
Qantas decided to close the Avalon base because the gradual retirement of its 747 fleet had made it unviable.