10 years as Airport CEO - Airport_News

On his last day in the role Paul Hughes, Newcastle Airport’s CEO, reflects on his decade at the helm.


Ten years ago the Hunter Region was swept into the revolution of low-cost carriers offering affordable air travel to the masses. The impact has been massive. 

Fast-forward to today and our region has one of the busiest non-capital city airports in the country. About 3,200 people depart Newcastle Airport every day, equating to 1.17 million passengers a year.

The Airport’s achievements in the past decade are as impressive as they are varied.

In 2007 Newcastle Airport reached the magic 1 million passenger milestone for the first time. This was a significant achievement as only four years earlier the passenger throughput was 214,000 annually.

In the past decade, the organisation has been significantly awarded for its contribution to the region and the industry. In 2008 the Newcastle Business Club named the Airport Organisation of the Year; in 2009 the Hunter Business Chamber recognised the Airport for its Contribution to the Region; and the Australian Airports Association recognised the Airport as Major Airport of the Year in both 2005 and 2011.

The economic impact of Newcastle Airport is significant. In 2005 it contributed $223.1 million to the local economy and supported 2,158 jobs. Today this contribution is five-fold at $1.19 billion to the local economy and supporting 3,346 jobs.

Newcastle Airport is a vital inbound tourism gateway.  It has worked closely with local and state tourism bodies to promote our region to key inbound markets both nationally and internationally. 

This support and close ties with tourism has resulted in Newcastle Airport being awarded Hall of Fame status in the Regional Tourism Awards, winning Gold at state level in 2009 and 2011, and winning the coveted Gold Award at the Australian Tourism Awards in 2011.
Total assets at the Airport have increased from $11.6 million to $84.7 million, driven from reinvesting profits into infrastructure such as upgrading the terminal and tarmac, and providing additional car parking facilities. 

From 2005 to 2015 the organisation completed total capital expenditure of $68 million. Equity in the organisation sat at $10 million in 2005; today the company has equity in the realm of $55 million.

In 2013, the Australian Investments and Securities Commission approved a change to the company structure of Newcastle Airport. It can now raise debt independently of the two council owners, ensuring a sustainable long-term future for air travel in the region.

In 2010, Newcastle Airport began participating in the Airports Council International benchmarking program. For airports with 2 million or fewer passengers each year, Newcastle ranked in the top 10 in the world.

But the past decade is not all about awards and increasing the financial scope of the organisation. 

The Airport has an enviable community engagement record including the volunteer ambassador program. The travelling public would be familiar with our teal-clad Ambassadors who volunteer their time with the single aim of helping passengers get into the air or onto their final destination with ease.

We have welcomed almost 20,000 schoolchildren as visitors, showing and explaining the behind-the-scenes operations.

The $11.1 million funding from the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund to expand and upgrade the terminal ensures it will be an impressive airport that will meet the future needs of the region. Works on this project are on schedule. Stage 1 of the project, the new arrivals hall, was opened to the public last month. 

Feedback about this extension has been overwhelmingly positive. The redevelopment of the old arrivals hall and retail concourse in the existing terminal is well under way and the project is on track to be completed and open to the public later this year.

Newcastle Airport will continue to grow and offer connectivity nationally and internationally. The community now identifies the organisation as a barometer of success. When the Airport is doing well, the Hunter region is doing well.

For my part, I am proud to have led the organisation through this past decade of significant industry and travel-culture change.

Service with a smile - News

Airports are busy places. People are often stressed, excited, anxious, or all three rolled into one; particularly if the aviation / airport environment is unfamiliar to them. Many people, whether they’re frequent flyers or not, have a lot of questions about Newcastle Airport. Why do airlines require ID? Why do you need to remove your belt / shoes / mobile phone / bangle / sun glasses when you go through security? And why it is always you that is ‘randomly selected’ for explosive trace detection? I get it, travelling through an airport isn’t always a barrel of laughs.

That’s where I believe the key understanding of us, the airport, is we’re fundamentally here to help you. It’s our job to make your experience a positive, pleasurable, and as hassle-free as possible. And, the more we accomplish this, the more successful our business will be. Dare I say it … a win-win scenario.

I continually see the people who work at Newcastle Airport understand the importance of helping you transit through the airport easily—and when things don’t go quite to plan, it’s this same team that’s at hand to help you, and to also learn from any mistakes made. What sets us apart, I believe, is that we’ve been able to maintain this consistency and culture as we’ve grown in the past seven years.

Airline staff and contractors; retailers; rental cars; cleaners; security and Newcastle Airport staff are all vital, and all contribute to our overall customer impression. This is topped off by our Ambassadors, who as volunteers, truly reflect our customer service ethos and promote our region.

October is typically one of our busiest months. Business travel during October is high, a public holiday, school holidays, and warmer weather bring people out from hibernation, and domestic tourism is recovering from the GFC. Despite this increase in activity, I hope that your experience while travelling through Newcastle Airport is of this high standard I am proud of.


About the author:
Paul Hughes is the CEO of Newcastle Airport Limited.  Paul has a background in accountancy.  His 25 years in local government senior management has proven invaluable as he now liaises with numerous government stakeholders in his role as Airport CEO. 

Paul has developed a passion for aviation and enjoys the dynamics of the industry.  He is passionate about the Hunter region and believes Newcastle Airport is critical to the region achieving its true potential.  


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