Western Sydney Airport remains on track for completion in 2026, says CEO Simon Hickey. Major earthworks are more than half done, and the tender for the terminal build is expected to be awarded this year. Mr Hickey says the new airport will open up big opportunities for Australia’s biggest city.
“This is about developing a new future for people living in Western Sydney and Sydney and connecting us with a 24/7 airport to the world,” Western Sydney Airport’s CEO told the FTA/APEX summit this week.
Big plans for Sydney’s new airport
Work on the airport started in 2018 after decades of postponements and studies. Western Sydney Airport is located 27 miles west of Sydney’s downtown and 25 miles west of Sydney’s present airport. Critics of the new airport say the distance will make Western Sydney Airport a costly white elephant.
But Simon Hickey dismisses this. He notes three million people live in the local catchment area, giving the future airport the third biggest catchment area of any airport in Australia.
“Westen Sydney is home to one in ten Australians. It is the third-largest economy after Sydney and Melbourne. It is one of Australia’s fastest-growing area in terms of population, and it will have the third-largest catchment of any Australian airport on day one of operation.”
When Western Sydney Airport opens in 2026, it will be able to handle 10 million passengers annually. The airport’s master plan reveals Dubai style aspirations. Western Sydney Airport says by the time the full airport build is completed, by 2060, up to 82 million passengers will be able to pass through the airport.
An alternative to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport
In 2019, Australia’s busiest airport, Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport, handled 44.4 million passengers. While convenient to Sydney’s downtown and eastern suburbs, Kingsford Smith Airport is curtailed by a curfew and a lack of space to expand.
There will be no curfew at Western Sydney Airport. Plus, there is ample room for the airport to expand. Toss in those three million potential passengers living within one hour of the airport, and Simon Hickeys thinks Sydney’s new airport is set for success.
“Great metropolises these days are built around airports. And that’s what we’re doing, becoming the lynchpin for growth here in Sydney, and Western Sydney in particular.”
But the question is, having built the airport, will the airlines come? Mr Hickey is initially targeting cargo and leisure airlines. Western Sydney Airport has signed memorandums of understanding with 12 cargo operators, including FedEx, DHL, and Qantas Freight.
But MOUs are not firm commitments, and no passenger airline has confirmed it will use Western Sydney Airport. Given completion is still five years away (and that’s a couple of lifetimes in airline terms), that’s not necessarily unexpected.
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Passenger airlines yet to commit to Western Sydney Airport
Qantas’ low-cost subsidiary Jetstar has previously expressed interest in Western Sydney Airport. Virgin Australia has also flagged the possibility of operating some flights from the new airport. But there is no word on whether Australia’s largest airline, Qantas, plans to shift any flights to Western Sydney Airport. However, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously said the new airport was “an important part of Australia’s aviation future.”
There is an assumption that airlines and their passengers prefer the “convenience” of Sydney’s present airport and its proximity to the downtown area. The flaw in that assumption is that everyone landing at Kingsford Smith Airport is heading to Sydney’s downtown area or the harbour and beach suburbs.
As Simon Hickey points out, beyond that tight Sydney downtown centric geographic zone is an enormous, sprawling city that is home to the bulk of Sydney’s population and an economic powerhouse in its own right. Western Sydney Airport’s CEO thinks Sydney’s new airport may suit them far more than Sydney’s present airport.