Australia Airports Build: Brisbane Airport Under Pressure

This is part 2 in a 3-part series on Australian airport development. Part 1 looked at the decision to build a second airport in Sydney and the politics surrounding that decision.

Fuelled by the commencement of the Asian century, Australia's resource sector has experienced a significant boom but with its natural resources often located in regional and remote locations, mining companies had to come up with attractive models for manning their operations.

It has been during this period that FIFO (Fly-In, Fly-Out, pronounced Fye-Foe) has become almost industry standard. FIFO involves all or part of a mine site's workforce flying in from a city to work and live on site for a week or two and then flying home for a week or two before starting the process again (this is often called a swing).

Home Base

One of these home cities is Brisbane on the east coast of Australia. In addition to being a significant recruitment centre for the state's FIFO workers, the greater south-east Queensland region has been a significant growth area for retirees, industry and commerce.

This has meant that Brisbane Airport has been and remains under pressure.

Peak hour delays have been a good source of fodder for local news outlets as inter-capital-city shuttles and fleets of regional turbo-jets descend on the airport at evening peak times. The demands of general business and mining schedules sharing common requirements for a finite serving of time.

But as any airport operator knows, you can't flick a switch and have more tarmac. While the airport has 2 runways, regulatory decisions have resulted in limitations on its Converging Runway Operations (CROPS).

This means that a new parallel runway is needed.

Chicken and Eggs

A parallel runway was identified way back in the airport's 1999 Master Plan. In the 2003 Master Plan, a parallel runway complex was expected to be delivered in 2012. And yet, in 2012, the airport and major airlines were at an impasse on the funding of the, now overdue, project.

The question of when the airlines should pay seemed to be the sticking point.

The airport operator, Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC), was, at the time, seeking an increase in passenger charges in the years leading up to delivery of the new runway to fund approximately 25% of the project. This proposal would eventuate in a surcharge of $1.80 for domestic passengers and $3.15 for internationals.

The airlines dug their heels in with one airline suggesting the proposal was like asking consumers to pay for the iPhone 10 years before its release.

While the increased capacity is sure to benefit all parties in the long run, discussions who should carry the liability and the risk for what would be an extended construction period continued for some time.

Eventually, agreement was reached and construction began in earlier this year.

Now the Easy Part

Compared to the work to reach this point, it would seem that the engineering and construction required to reclaim land and construct a brand-new runway and taxiway complex is relatively simple.

The fun part is watching it unfold as the Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) takes us along for the ride.

Part 3 of this series will look at the other end of the FIFO journey and a couple of the remote airports that grew from little (or nothing) to accommodate a lot of people and/or some relatively large aircraft.

Editor's Note We're back after the summer break and will continue bringing you 2 new blog posts a month. If you have comments, we would love to hear from you. Also, if you have a topic you would like us to cover. Email us at hello[at] Thank you!

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