An airline industry chief has warned that Australia’s AUS$1.2 billion OneSKY programme which will unify both civil and military air traffic management must not lead to airlines subsidising their defence counterpart.
Addressing the Australasian Aviation Press Club in advance of the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Sydney, IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said that while Australia should be commended for its investment at a time of industry crisis due to a global increase in demand, the airline industry would be closely monitoring costs and service provision of the programme.
“Australia is a good news story,” he said. “The OneSKY project will help manage congestion in the sky by taking a holistic view of civilian and military capabilities. We just need to make sure that the expected benefits are realised within an acceptable budget and timeframe.
“And it is important that the good reputation of Australia in terms of cost-efficiency in air traffic management is not damaged by cross-subsidisation by civil aircraft operators for military air traffic management.”
Developed in partnership by Airservices and Australia’s defence ministry with Thales Australia, the new system will see air traffic controllers use advanced technology and real-time traffic prediction tools. Airlines will have more flexibility to fly the most efficient routes for their aircraft, spending less time in the air, saving fuel and reducing carbon emissions.
The system also means that for the first time, civil and military air traffic controllers will share the same integrated air traffic management system, using the same information to jointly manage 11 per cent of the world’s airspace for which Australia is responsible.
De Juniac added that IATA is working with Airlines for Australia and New Zealand and the Board of Airline Representatives Australia on input to the Productivity Review on Economic Regulation of Airport Services taking place this year.
“Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, anyone who has travelled knows that it is cheaper today than it was a decade ago. But airlines have not seen similar decreases in their airport costs. The difference is that airlines operate in a competitive environment and airports have much more market power. So we must find an effective regulatory solution to ensure that Australia is well-served with competitive infrastructure.”
“The new system, when completed in 2021, will allow us to provide operational efficiency improvements for future growth and ensure we are meeting the demands of our customers and delivering them value for money,” Airservices chief Jason Harfield has previously pledged.