Airport numbers continue to increase

INCREASED NUMBER: Mount Gambier resident Geraldine Allen says it is great to have more passengers coming through the local airport.

PASSENGER numbers filtering through the Mount Gambier and District Airport have bounced back since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic with further increases expected after the state borders reopen.

Throughout the pandemic, numbers at the local airport have fluctuated with restrictions implemented across the state.

According to latest figures, the number of passengers prior to the Covid-19 pandemic being felt in the South East were at almost 8,000 in November 2019.

By April 2020, being the month after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the numbers fell to a low of just 170 passengers for the month.

The numbers have increased since with a high of more than 5,400 recorded in May this year compared to only 257 in the same month last year.

While numbers have dropped back to almost 3,000 in September this year, this is almost triple the number from the same month in 2020.

Grant District Council chief executive Darryl Whicker said the number of passengers was expected to increase after the state’s border reopens.

“The border opening has huge ramifications for the airport and will provide a great opportunity for financial recovery,” Mr Whicker said.

“Covid really started to hit us in March of the 2019/2020 financial year and financially the airport has carried losses over the past two years.”

Mr Whicker said the airport had operated at a surplus in the past and he anticipated it would return to a surplus soon.

He said increased flights provided by the facility’s aircraft services, Qantas and Rex, would also assist in increasing numbers.

“We are looking forward to strong numbers across the Christmas period and the summer period,” Mr Whicker said.

“When the borders open and there are increased flight numbers, the flights are affordable and with the two carriers it is looking positive.

“We strongly encourage people to reconsider air travel as an option once it is fully available and the council remains optimistic of its resilience if any unforeseen circumstances of Covid should occur.”

Mount Gambier resident Geraldine Allen said she was happy to be able to travel via plane once again and that the increased passenger numbers was a positive for tourism.

“Having more passengers is good for the region and it means there are more tourists coming through,” Ms Allen said.