Rethink your flights when you head overseas - Travel_the_World

Today we launched a joint campaign with Singapore Airlines challenging you, residents of the Hunter, to ‘rethink’ how you fly internationally.

As a British-expat who now calls Australia home, I’m well-versed in the travel down the M1 to get international flights.  I am all too familiar with having to work backwards from my flight departure time to determine what time I actually need to leave the house to make said flight. So, say I have a 3pm departure; I should be aiming to arrive and check-in at the airport for midday, which means I should be leaving home no later than 9.30am (excluding the time I’ve taken to collect my rental car to drive to Sydney).

That’s almost six hours before my flight even takes off and makes the idea of a long-haul flight seem even longer. And, that’s best case scenario, because that’s what you do for an afternoon flight.

If I’m on an early morning flight, then I always book myself into a hotel and stay the night before; as it’s hard to predict what you’ll encounter in the early-morning traffic on the M1.

If you’ve flown internationally, I’m sure you can relate. This is the reason this campaign is setting the challenge to ‘rethink’ international travel. 

It’s possible for Hunter residents to book their international travel with Singapore Airlines; you can check-in for the international flight at Newcastle Airport the same as you would for travelling domestically, this means you can forget about the six hours of travel before you even get on a plane. 

From Newcastle, you can fly on Singapore Airways’ codeshare partner – Virgin Australia – to Brisbane or Melbourne, and easily transit through to connect to the international leg of your flight. Your bags are checked all the way through to your final international destination.

Most of the connection and transit times in Melbourne and Brisbane flying with Singapore Airlines are less than two hours, the perfect amount of time to clear border controls. This means that it is actually faster to depart for international travel from Newcastle Airport and enjoy the convenience that comes with leaving from home.

When it comes to international services at Newcastle, we’re still aiming for direct international services; in the meantime this initiative of Singapore Airlines is most certainly a convenient option when travelling overseas.

Book your Singapore Airlines flight here.

Get to the Grand Prix - Travel_Australia

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For most rev-heads, the middle weekend of March signals a traditional pilgrimage to Albert Park in Melbourne for the opening round of the Formula One World Championship.

Following years of Red Bull domination, 2014 saw the rise of the silver arrows; the two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, vied for the ultimate crown until the last race of the season.

The question is being asked of 2015. Will that domination continue this year? Or, will we see the resurgence of Ferrari, in the hands of Sebastian Vettel? Pre-season testing certainly seems to have indicated a return to form for the prancing horse.

If you are thinking of heading to Melbourne this year to cheer on Australia’s own Daniel Riccardo, it’s not too late.  Flights are available on Thursday 12 March ex-Newcastle, or you can take advantage of the additional flight from Newcastle on Virgin Australia on Friday 13 March. Coming home on Monday is also good news; Virgin Australia has scheduled its first flight from Melbourne to Newcastle on Monday 16t March which will have you at work by 10!  So, simply call the boss and tell him you are running a bit late. 

If you are heading to Albert Park for the first time, it’s only 10 minutes from Melbourne CBD and free trams operate from:

  • Spencer Street (Corner Collins Street) to Gates 1 & 2
  • Spencer Street (Corner Collins Street) to Gates 3 & 4
  • Swanston Street (outside Federation Square) to Gates 5, 8, 9, & 10

Albert Park offers a great selection of grandstand seating.  It’s mostly sold for the full four days, but there are also several grandstands that sell Sunday-only seats if you’re set for a quick visit. The general admission also offers great viewing, particularly on the exit of turn two or just past the swimming pool (no, this isn’t Monaco).

All the activity with V8 support races make the full three-day experience worthwhile.  Take a walk around the track and there are some great vantage points across the lake near the golf course (think photo /selfie opportunities). And, don’t forget the off-track entertainment which usually offers a headline act on Sunday night – all included in the price of the ticket.

Based on a dollar per hour basis you’ll struggle to get better value at a sporting event in Australia this year.

Book your tickets via the website

How does Newcastle Airport secure a new destination? - Aviation_and_Flights

We’re often asked when “Newcastle Airport will fly to Adelaide, Perth, Cairns, Hobart, New Zealand…?”

And the answer is, we’re working on it!

We would love to see direct flights to these places and a range of other destinations, direct from Newcastle Airport.

However, the reality is we don’t own the planes; the airlines do.  Which means it’s the airlines that choose where their planes fly. 

Our role, as Newcastle Airport, in securing new destinations is to convince an airline that they will make more money by putting on (for example) a Newcastle-Adelaide service instead of another service elsewhere (such as on the golden triangle of Sydney-Brisbane-Melbourne). 

So, how do we go about convincing the airlines?  It’s a four-step process:

  1. We conduct research
    We look at our current passenger travel patterns, such as ‘are our passengers travelling to Adelaide via Melbourne?’  ‘Are possible passengers travelling to Sydney so they can get a direct flight to Adelaide instead?’

    We also look closely at our customer feedback; from our feedback stations in the terminal, through our website, or other surveys we conduct.
  2. We engage with the airport at the other end
    Once we have done our research, we liaise with the airport at the other end, in this example it’s Adelaide, to see if they have similar information about their passengers.
  3. Crunch the numbers to determine if a service is viable
    Once we know that a destination is in demand, we look at how many passengers from our catchment and the other airport’s catchment would use the service each week and if the service is truly sustainable in the long-term.
  4. Determine the best-suited airline and pitch the business case
    Not all destinations are suited to Virgin Australia or Jetstar.  Ballina / Byron Bay is a perfect example of this. 

    The market demand for a Newcastle–Ballina/Byron Bay service exists, but not for 180 people on the type of aircraft used by Virgin or Jetstar, going each way every day. 
    But there is for 70 people a day—hence this route is serviced by Regional Express.

    When we look at those destinations on the top of our wish list, we need to determine which airline we think will best fit the needs of that route and then present the numbers from our research to the airline—what size aircraft we think would be best, how many times a day or week, and sometimes we’ve even presented suggested airfare research.

    It’s the airline’s decision what they decide to do with this information. 

Ultimately, it comes down to if they think they can make more money off the Newcastle–New Destination service or the Sydney–Brisbane or Sydney–Melbourne service.

In recent years, the airlines have played safe and have opted to keep services on the Golden Triangle.

With our terminal expansion and passenger numbers on the rise, it’s an exciting time for Newcastle Airport, so we’re not discouraged. We’ll keep up our four step process and hope to bring you some good news regarding these destinations in the future.

Are we ready China? - Airport_News

In recent times you may have heard the phrase ‘China Ready’ in terms of tourism. But, what does it mean?

It’s been well documented that the major growth market for international visitors to Australia is China. But, attracting and meeting the needs of Chinese visitors is very different to the approach we take with visitors from Europe or New Zealand.

The primary issue with Chinese visitors is communication, both verbal and written. Whilst the number of English-speaking Chinese is increasing, communication still poses a challenge for the tourism industry.  In response to this, more and more Australian’s are seeing Chinese-language signs at airports, major attractions, as well as dedicated Chinese websites and collateral. 

We are also finding that Chinese travellers are becoming more open to new dining experiences, but, they will still always expect good Chinese food to be available. And, it’s simple things that can make a huge difference. A hotel including a welcome page in their hotel directory that’s in Chinese it goes a long way to making the visitors feel welcome.  

So what does this have to do with Newcastle Airport?   “We are not even an International Airport!” I hear you say. 

Whilst this is true, we are seeing more Chinese visitors using Newcastle Airport.  Travel agents in China are selling holiday packages with the itinerary of two nights in Sydney, one night in the Hunter Valley, one night in Port Stephens, and then flying Jetstar from Newcastle Airport to the Gold Coast. The group of 18 pictured above were doing just that!

So are we China Ready? Probably not.  However, we’re working on it, and our very own Insomnia Coffee Bar and Grappa Wine Bar are on the front foot and accept the ‘Union Pay’ card.  

Due to currency and credit card restrictions for overseas Chinese travellers, their preferred method of payment for transactions is with the Chinese bank card ‘Union Pay’—a major benefit to the Chinese travellers, and at the end of the day we need them spending money in our region to contribute to the Visitor Economy.

As we see more of these groups passing through the airport, we will need to look at how we can become China Ready, and this may mean signage and improved way-finding for our visitors from China.       

How many people used Newcastle Airport in the last year? - Airport_News

The numbers are in! Last financial year we welcomed 1,176,025 million (1.17 million) passengers through our departure and arrival gates.

While this isn’t a record—which incidentally was 1,209,021 passengers in 2010/11—we’d by lying if we didn’t say that looking at the market conditions of the past year, 1.17 million passengers is still a very impressive result.  And as a percentage, is 1.3% less than last year, and 2.8% less than our record 2010/11 year. 

In previous years passenger traffic has been boosted by the mining boom, and our terminal probably saw more than its fair share of travellers wearing high-vis. The slow-down of the resources sector in recent months combined with the recent slowdown in domestic tourism (due to high Aussie dollar making overseas locations extremely affordable) has had major effects on local business—Newcastle Airport included.

Airports that experienced growth in the past 12 months are those who have benefited from increased international travel. We, being a domestic port, have unfortunately not been in a position to ride on the high-dollar-wave.

The next 12 months will be interesting for us – a Federal Election, commodity prices fluctuating, the dollar trading at a lower rate than it has for three years, and domestic tourism figures showing signs of recovery. These factors could well see us back on the path to growing passenger numbers.

Combine these with a number of major events coming to our region, such as the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games in December, and we are sure to see a boost in the traffic through our Newcastle Airport.  

Why doesn't Newcastle Airport have aerobridges? - Airport_News

Last month we announced our Development Application for a terminal redevelopment had been approved.

We shared on our blog and Facebook page an architect drawing of what the proposed redevelopment could look like.  Comments were mostly positive, however, there were a few comments about the lack of aerobridges and how this would impact our ability for aviation growth.

We’ve since discovered there’s this perception amongst the public that unless an airport has aerobridges, airlines won’t consider the airport for future opportunities, particularly international flights.

Well, that’s not quite right. The airlines actually prefer to use stairs rather than aerobridges.

Newcastle Airport is primarily a budget airline airport. If you’re a regular traveller from Newcastle Airport, you’ll know that the time between a plane landing and taking off again is just 30 minutes.

The use of stairs to disembark passengers from and board them onto the plane means both the front and back doors can be used; stairs don’t require skilled staff (aerobridges require skilled engineers); and stairs help to keep costs down and maintain competitive airfares.

In contrast, aerobridges are expensive to install and maintain, and can cause delays.  This can cost airlines time and money—which, is ultimately passed onto you and me, the paying customer.

As an example of an Australian airport that is enjoying great success, without aerobridges, is Gold Coast Airport. Having positioned itself as an alternative gateway into Queensland, this airport has regular services to south-east Asia and New Zealand.

We have full confidence that it’s possible for Newcastle Airport to enjoy the same success in New South Wales, without an aerobridge in sight.

The great debate: VFT versus air travel - Airport_News

The debate around a VFT (Very Fast Train) on the East Coast of Australia has been in the news again this week.

Along with this comes the inevitable impact on aviation and closer to home Newcastle Airport.

As has been stated before, fast trains are a real double edged sword for airports. On one hand, they can provide a vital mode of transport linking airports to city centres (and as has been seen across Europe and China). On the other hand, they also provide competition to traditional air routes.

In the UK during the past 10 years domestic air routes linking London to cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham have either reduced or disappeared completely; a direct result of the development of a fast and reliable rail service.

Similarly, air services from London to Brussels and Paris have declined.

This all considered, should a VFT eventuate, it would provide a great link between Newcastle and Sydney and would provide opportunity for Newcastle Airport. I'll explain how.

There would no doubt be an increase in population in the Hunter, which provides great lifestyle opportunities for those working in a "closer" Sydney. This would create an increasing the demand for an airport to serve the needs of that growing local market.

The flip side of course is linking Newcastle to Brisbane by fast train. This would inevitably lead to a decline in demand for point to point air travel, as has been seen in Europe. There are currently 10 flights per day linking Newcastle and Brisbane. For the foreseeable future, this number will increase as some 60% of flyers make connections to other Queensland destinations, which in the future would not be impacted by fast train.

The aviation industry is resilient as has been seen many times around the globe. While a VFT remains decades away, growth opportunities for domestic and international travel to NSW are here today and Newcastle Airport continues to strive to meet these demands.

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