20 Sep 2006
Wellington Airport August 2006 traffic figures have been posted on the Infratil website.
Domestic passengers grew modestly in August at 2.2%, with load factors at 70%, compared to 72% last year. Year to date growth for the five months from April to August 2006 sits at 0% and a load factor of 71%. This trend appears widespread. Christchurch experienced a 3% fall in domestic passengers in August, and the same for the five months from April to August, with even greater falls in July and June. Auckland Airport's August figures are not yet published, but they have reported adverse movements in domestic passengers in recent months. The tourism industry has pointed to slow domestic travel and speculated on new domestic tourism initiatives. However, it appears that one important ingredient must be the availability of genuine domestic competition and readily available low fares. Domestic fare indices have increased by 33% since 2003 and are 14% up on the previous peak in 2002 (prior to Domestic Express). Considering the withdrawal of Origin Pacific and an attempt to have an anti-competitive arrangement between Qantas and Air New Zealand on the Tasman, the prospects for domestic competition and a low fare environment look very uncertain, albeit that fuel prices are now easing.
International passengers fell by 4% in August and 5% year to date. YTD load factors for the five months to August were at 67%, down two points on pcp. South East Queensland routes, which drove growth at this time last year, has stalled (down 1% in August and up only 3% year to date). The Sydney route continues to decline, albeit at a slower rate, despite having well and truly passed the anniversary of Pacific Blue's withdrawal. The Melbourne route is relatively stable. Currency movements over recent months have favoured inbound travel, but the shift to higher fare levels appears to continue. With lower fare levels now as much as 75% higher than similar fare categories two years ago, it is not surprising that traffic has slowed. By way of comparison, Christchurch international traffic also slowed by 1% in August (which is an improvement on July and June), despite the operation of Jetstar and a much better ski season than 2005.
The terminal development continues on schedule and it is expected that new facilities and additional duty free stores will be completed before Christmas. Wishbone began operating in the terminal and initial trading is above expectations. Car parking initiatives to provide greater customer choice, better facilities and extra capacity are well advanced. At the Airport Retail Park, Kathmandu, Godfreys and Noel Leeming will be trading by Christmas this year, and more leases are expected to be announced in the near future. The southern runway end safety area (RESA) is progressing to programme, and WIAL expects to announce concept plans for the Northern RESA in the near future. WIAL commenced consultations with airlines in relation to aeronautical charges, as required by the Airport Authorities Act and expects to put an initial proposal to airlines in mid October.
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