Airport passenger numbers

AIRPORT NUMBERS NOT CONCERNING: District Council of Grant chief executive Darryl Whicker says current airport numbers were not of concern. Picture: FILE

Charlotte Varcoe

AIRPORT numbers are below this time last year by almost 500, according to a District Council of Grant director.

During this week’s council meeting, elected members questioned flight numbers for the Mount Gambier Airport and whether numbers were the same as last year.

According to the annual monthly financial report, airport numbers for the 2021-2022 financial year during the month of December was 3991 which decreased to 2495 in January.

During the 2022-2023 financial year, December numbers were 5946 which decreased to 4580 the following month.

It was revealed this year’s numbers were well below 2023 with director of corporate service Gary Button stating the airport was still recovering from the Covid-19 disruption.

Mr Button told elected members the December numbers were close to the year-to-date numbers but January’s numbers were down.

He said despite this, it was still sitting at around 96 per cent budget.

Mr Button said it was expected to pick up nearing the end of the month with business travel starting again with Cr Turnbull noting 500 was quite a large number.

Cr Turnbull also noted it was difficult to book flights in the future after struggling with it herself.

Mr Button also noted in December 2021 the numbers were under 4000 and the previous year was almost 6000.

District Council of Grant chief executive Darryl Whicker said the important thing was the passenger numbers were tracking “okay” against budget which was what council judged it by.

“To be down 500 six months in with another six months to go is not a need for concern,” Mr Whicker said.

“Generally speaking, flights are affected by some key factors which would be access to flights, the frequency of flights as well as the price of flights and in this current environment the high cost of living as well.”

He said the monthly financial report presented to elected members each month showed a graph of flight numbers.

“If you look at these months, the months over Christmas, from about December to February there is a sharp dip in passenger numbers and that is consistent year on year,” Mr Whicker said.

“That is not a concern for council and generally over the next few weeks they start to ramp up again back to a higher frequency of flights.”

He said in terms of booking systems, it was a decision for the airline providers.

“Nothing significant about flight availability from the public has come across my desk,” Mr Whicker said.

“Our airport staff may get some questions on the amount of flights and the frequency but we refer people to the point of trust which will be to the provider.

“They [Rex Airlines and Qantas] are commercial organisations and they need to make the right commercial decisions and what we do is put in the infrastructure to try and ensure we can attract passenger flights.”

Mr Whicker said council was “proud of the effort” post Covid-19 to return the airport to where it is now.