As Australia embarks on its first publicly-funded airport project in more than three decades with Western Sydney Airport in Badgerys Creek, a new report released today by the United States Studies Centre looks at the lessons and insights to be taken from the US experience of airport development, where the majority of airports are publicly funded.

The United States pioneered and mastered air transport and has been responsible for more than 80 per cent of the competitive innovation in air travel. The development of Western Sydney Airport presents an opportunity to learn from seven decades of public policy in the United States towards airport construction, according to report author Justin Wastnage – a board director of Aviation/Aerospace Australia and previously the director of aviation policy at the Australian industry group Tourism & Transport Forum.

"The guarantee of 24-hour operations, coupled with efficient road and rail connections will be key if Sydney is to emulate the success of US cities such as Chicago, Louisville and Dallas. So too is the requirement for highly-skilled workers on the doorstep of any major airport in Western Sydney," Wastnage said.

"While it is important to recognise key differences between the US and Australian air transport landscapes, the experience of the United States in the creation and development of secondary airports provides some pointers for Australia in this journey."

Key points

  • All levels of government will need to work together to enable competitive pricing of air traffic management services, firefighting services and landing charges at Western Sydney Airport to ensure the new airport can attract carriers.
  • No curfew or night-time operating restrictions can be placed on Western Sydney Airport if it is to maximise attractiveness to carriers seeking to achieve high aircraft utilisation rates and to distinguish itself from the existing Sydney airport. Policymakers also need to consider the mechanisms by which they can make Western Sydney attractive for air traffic to Asia.
  • Air freight and logistics offers Western Sydney Airport its single largest opportunity for mass employment growth in the region. As such, governments need to ensure the rail and road networks around Western Sydney Airport are completed as projected to ensure its potential is fully realised

View report

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