Airport owners need help to limit crippling losses, Senate told

Australian Airports Association (AAA) members are losing around $300 million a month, a Senate select committee on Covid-19 heard on Thursday.

Making the case for direct government assistance to airport operators (including local governments), AAA chief executive James Goodwin said the aviation sector has been hit by some of the “deepest lows” of the crisis.

“As an essential and critical piece of infrastructure, they have been assisting governments by keeping runways and terminals open to allow repatriation flights, to maintain freight movements, and to get medical professionals and essential workers to where they’re needed,” Mr Goodwin told  the committee.

“But this all comes at a significant cost with airports collectively losing around $300 million a month.”

He said airports have not received any direct government assistance and many staff from regional locations were not eligible for JobKeeper payments as they are employed by local councils.

“Australia needs a sustainable aviation network, but there is a growing risk airport will cut services to save costs, lose skills or in the case of some airports, close facilities down for periods to manage costs.”

The sector supports more than 200,000 jobs in travel and tourism, worth about $35 billion before the Covid-19 crisis, or about 2 per cent of GDP.