The Sydney Airport Group now features predominantly in, and behind, the orchestrated stories in the general media about how they need an Adani (or $1 billion) of government money in order to extend their monopoly grip on airport landing and handling charges, and airport parking and retailing fees, to the entire greater metropolitan area once the second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek in western Sydney opens in 2026.

But these are ransom notes. They say, “Give us your money or we we won’t exercise our right to build and operate the new airport needed do things we can’t do in the current overcrowded airport.”

If, for example, one were to visit The Australian’s aviation landing page, one would find by complete coincidence a story saying development of Badgerys Creek would be unviable without government support, and another about how greenfield airport projects come with significant upfront costs. Who would have thought?

The Australian seems, at times, to be a red-blooded, free-market journal, while at others, it just publishes obedient and obsequious exercises in dictation from vested interests.

The whinging from Sydney Airport’s owners appears to heard more clearly at The Australian than the misery its shortcomings inflict on airlines and their customers, and even commuters unlucky enough to have navigate around it by road or under it by train, not all of which are the fault of those owners.

Sydney Airport has quite a few issues to legitimately complain about, but asking for public funds to extend its monopoly over airport charges on travelers, airlines, and on-site retailers is more than a bit rich.

If Sydney Airport’s owners can’t hack the upfront costs of taking up its rights to grab a second Sydney Airport, which it purchased when it bought the existing eastern airport, it should get out of the way and let others risk their capital for what look like very high rewards over the life of a 99 year lease.

Sydney would then gain the full benefit of competition between those two widely separated airports, which will, in reality, serve two cities occupying the same sprawling Sydney metropolitan basin.

This morning’s “new” angle on the second airport, in the Fairfax media, doesn’t add to the barrage of pro-Sydney Airport monopoly stories. It argues that the new airport should be thrown completely open to unfettered access by foreign carries, which has always been the assumption of the tourism lobbies, and the big and powerful offshore aviation powers like Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

Even if growth in international travel to Australia fell back to more modest levels than seen in the last 10 years, the demand for access to a Sydney gateway nine years from now is going to exceed by a very large margin the capacity of the existing Sydney airport.

The pressure to expel small town country services from Sydney Airport today will be replaced by the demands of the international partners of Australia’s mainline domestic airlines to accommodate more of their giant 777-Xs and A380s and stretched A350s on their lucrative yet tiny Sydney Airport.

The only way Sydney can overcome decades of denial about the need for a big new airport to handle 21st-century air travel demand is to throw Badgerys Creek open to all. Everyone in the game, whether tourism operators or the airlines, has known and quietly acknowledged that for some time.

*This article was originally published at Plane Talking

Peter Fray

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