Adelaide a ‘vibrant market for airlines’

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By David Sly

The striking facade of the new $50 million Atura Airport Hotel, rising proudly next to the arrival plaza, is just the first sign that much is changing at Adelaide Airport – and further expansion is set to take off.

Construction company Watpac has commenced a $165 million transformation of the airport terminal, scheduled for completion by 2021, which will double international arrival and departure areas, and increase the airport’s dining and retail precinct by 80%.

This is growth that reflects a stimulated business environment that has taken root in South Australia, and Adelaide Airport managing director Mark Young is confident that this positive energy will keep escalating.

“The airport management has been busy for the past decade promoting SA’s image – as a place to visit, to study, to live, to do business and trade,” says Mark.

“It takes time for that to gain traction, but we’re seeing the results of all that promotional work, and now we need to expand the airport to accommodate it properly.”

Since Adelaide’s current airport terminal opened in 2005, growth has been significant and swift. Adelaide Airport now processes more than eight million passengers a year, a rise of almost 50% in a decade, with one million being international passengers – the consequence of being able to fly non-stop from Adelaide to nine international locations, which connect to more than 300 cities.

However, the increased number of international fights is only partially tied to passenger growth. The lynchpin is increased freight traffic – both for imports, and for exported luxury goods, especially SA’s legion of premium foods.

“Expansion is tied directly to SA business,” says Mark. “It’s the freight volume more than passenger numbers that shows this state as being a vibrant market for airlines, and Adelaide is now directly connected to some of the biggest trade distribution hubs in the world – Dubai, Qatar, Guangzhou – through Adelaide Airport.”

Access to South China is a current focus of increased flight activity, but smaller markets are also expanding. Fiji Air is bringing larger aircraft into Adelaide, and will be scheduling more flights.

An artist’s impression of the transformations at Adelaide Airport.

“Sure, some partnerships are building from a small base, but these form important parts of a bigger picture,” says Mark. “It’s not our aim to cannibalise existing routes and airlines, but to achieve strategic growth through reaching out to new markets.”

This includes talking with airline carriers about a possible direct route to America’s west coast – but Mark concedes that this won’t happen in a hurry.

“It took seven years of negotiation with Emirates before its route and flights to Adelaide were confirmed. It will be a similar long process of continual discussion regarding a route to the US, but I believe it is moving forward,” he says. “It’s a way off, but we believe that the market for such flights is there, and our marketing efforts have commenced.”

Such ambition to pursue vigorous expansion puts existing Adelaide Airport facilities under hard scrutiny. Acknowledging that the current international arrivals hall has inefficiencies at peak times, Mark says the new construction work – ironically located where Adelaide Airport’s 1980s international arrivals shed once stood – will double current capacity, with provision for infrastructure to double again.

International upgrades will include a second, longer baggage belt for arrivals, more space for emigration and immigration processing, expanded security screening, a larger duty free precinct for arrivals and departures, and an expanded dining and retail precinct that will add an estimated 600 retail jobs.

An artist’s impression of the larger duty free precinct at Adelaide Airport.

Other improvements that will soon be taking shape in the airport terminal will include a new premium international lounge and dedicated VIP facilities, along with a relocation of the Virgin Australia Lounge.

The first sign of progress in this big airport transformation was the opening in September 2018 of the seven-story, 165-room Atura Hotel abutting the terminal.

It allows hotel guests to check out and proceed straight to their flight through a direct level-two connection into the airport’s check-in counters. Such an improvement not only accommodates the current needs of travellers, but also serves as a necessary springboard to further growth, and sends a powerful signal to the rest of the nation that Adelaide is a destination on the rise.

“While we still have sufficient capacity to meet future forecasted growth in the number of flights coming to Adelaide, we’re quickly reaching capacity within the existing terminal, and we know there’s potential for more growth,” says Mark.

There are 1.4 million South Australians travelling overseas each year, so about 30% of these people are currently flying out from other Australian cities, and with more flight options we will see that more of these people can be travelling directly from Adelaide.

“The growth in Adelaide Airport is a signal to the state,” Mark says. “It builds confidence in who we are and what we do – and it’s all moving forward.”

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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