Once open, Western Sydney Airport to expand cargo options for carriers

Western Sydney Airport’s stage 1 development, planned for completion in 2026. Image: Australian Government

Sydney’s in-development second airport, Western Sydney Airport, this month signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Qantas Group and Virgin Australia, Australia’s two largest carriers.

It is not immediately clear how the carriers’ cargo operations will adjust to the new airport. Virgin Australia is based at Brisbane International Airport (BNE), while Qantas Airlines and its cargo subsidiary, Qantas Freight, are based at Sydney Airport (SYD). Both carriers are substantial cargo operators within their respective spheres, with Qantas Airways ranking as the No. 36 overall cargo carrier worldwide for 2017, and Virgin Australia coming in at No. 36 in the domestic carrier traffic ranking published by our sister site, Cargo Facts. A Virgin Australia spokesperson told Air Cargo World that while its largest operations today are at SYD and Melbourne, how operations will be split between SYD and the Western Sydney Airport remains to be seen.

“This agreement offers a chance to collaborate early in the planning phase,” Virgin Australia Group CEO Paul Scurrah said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to sharing our ideas to help make the airport a great experience and ensure it supports future operational requirements.” The carrier’s spokesperson said that Virgin Atlantic is looking at cargo operations at the new airport, but that it is not clear yet what that capability will eventually look like.

It is unsurprising that carriers are still evaluating their cargo needs at the Western Sydney Airport. Any substantial changes are still several years away, because the Western Sydney Airport is not expected to open its first stage until 2026. However, according to a planning document from the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, once operational the airport will have infrastructure allowing for annual handling capacity of 220,000 tonnes of airfreight per year. In its initial stage, the airport will include one runway, capable of handling large widebody aircraft.

While the airport opening is still years away, the carriers involved in the MoU will take an active role in the planning stages of the airport, for both passenger and cargo operations. According to a press release from the airport, Virgin Australia and Qantas will collaborate with Western Sydney Airport on the development of airfreight and cargo facilities.

Although last year SYD fell out of the top 50 airports worldwide by overall cargo handle, executives at Qantas and Virgin Australia are optimistic on the need for a new airport in the Australian state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital.

“Given the size and significance of New South Wales to the national economy, a second airport is exactly what we need to keep growing,” said Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO. “The potential is huge.”

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