Passenger service will start to shift to the brand new, high-tech Kangaroo Island Airport terminal building later this week.
KI Council CEO Andrew Boardman said both QantasLink and Rex airlines were due to start shifting over passengers and boarding to the new terminal later this week.
The old terminal building will continue to be used for smaller domestic flights to Adelaide as necessary.
KI Airport is already handling the 74-seater QantasLink Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s and similar size charter aircraft and business jets such as Alliance Airlines VIP-configured F70 jet aircraft.
Mr Boardman said it was hoped that QantasLink can expand its Q400 service over and above the current peak holiday season, connecting KI to Melbourne over the whole year.
“In the future, our aim is to see Qantas start bringing in its larger Boeing 717-200 or Fokker F100 aircraft, carrying 100-120 passengers, from Sydney and other eastern seaboard capital cities,” he said.
The new terminal security systems mean KI Airport could handle these larger aircraft.
One of the main challenges to expansion of services is that Qantas and other airlines were currently experiencing a shortage of aircrew.
A busy regional aircraft fleet with limited additional capacity for Qantas was also challenging the establishment of additional services, he said.
“Codeshare is an option being discussed and explored as a way of bringing on other operator’s 70-100 seat aircraft in partnership with Qantas,” Mr Boardman said.
“We are hoping to have year-round service from the East Coast and Qantas has said it was very happy with the Christmas trial period and has committed to direct Melbourne flights again for the next peak period.”
The whole idea behind the new terminal and expanded runway was that KI could become a destination for direct flights from Sydney and other East Coast cities, but from a flying time, economy and comfort perspective, these needed be jet-based services, he said.
“We are hoping to tap into the East Coast domestic market and those airports that are the international gateways into Australia,” Mr Boardman said.
“International visitors could fly into Sydney and Melbourne, clear customs and immigration services and then check their bags all the way into Kangaroo Island.”
The new runway has been lengthened from 1402m to 1812m, which is longer than the current Sunshine Coast Airport, and this and the apron have been enlarged and strengthened to be able to handle regional jets in operation in Australia at this time.
It has also been fitted with modern, more energy efficient precision approach path indicator (PAPI) system landing guidance lights and could technically handle even larger Airbus A320/Boeing 737 aircraft on concession, if they met certain weight and tyre pressure conditions.
Regarding flight loading at the airport, Mr Boardman said passenger numbers were up 12.7 per cent year to date at the end April, despite Rex numbers being down by 9 per cent, principally due to reducing fight availability.
“QantasLink picked up this and all of the growth as was originally expected due to increased visibility on airline booking systems, flight/accommodation/hire car/service packaging, significant marketing work in the domestic markets and marketing/cross linking with their international OneWorld airline partners – all essential for a tourism destination such as KI,” Mr Boardman said.
The Islander plans to undertake another tour of the new terminal this week and will bring you more updates on its features including the artwork, tourism aspects and potential as a dining and event venue.