A leading aviation expert says Australian airports are a “national embarrassment” riddled by congestion and poor pedestrian access compared with international world-class airports.
According to Monash University professor Greg Bamber, who has researched airline performance in Australia and overseas for more than 15 years, Australian airports needed to be redesigned to become more efficient for passengers.
“It’s a national embarrassment when passengers first enter the country. At Melbourne Airport for example, we have a lack of public transport and poor pedestrian access with passengers crossing a zebra crossing causing a traffic bottleneck,” Professor Bamber told The New Daily.
“In Sydney and Brisbane, there are extreme delays to get into the country at customs with long queues and it’s the last thing someone needs after a long-haul flight,” he said.
“There needs to be a better system in place to ease this type of congestion.”
On Thursday, it was announced that Melbourne Airport would undergo a $500 million makeover with a redeveloped four-storey Terminal 2 which will have 30 new shops, restaurants and cafes, and five new airline lounges.
But Professor Bamber said airports were too retail-focused and fee-grabbing from passengers.
“The priority seems to be retail tenants who they can extract rent from, more cars to extract parking fees and more people travelling in taxis that they can extract levies from.
“Those seem to be the priorities rather than better transport links and pedestrian access in an integrated way,” he said.
In August, the Victorian government announced it had plans to build a multi-billion-dollar underground rail loop connecting Melbourne’s western and eastern suburbs via the airport.
“The rail link should’ve been of great urgency a long time ago, and it’s going to be years before we see anything happen,” he said.
Professor Bamber said the best airports in the world in his view were Singapore Changi, Amsterdam Schiphol and Hong Kong.
“These are modern integrated airports that have multiple transport access close to freeways and public transport. They’re all efficient and effective,” he said.
Dr Peter Bruce, airline operations expert at Swinburne University, said Melbourne Airport should implement better pedestrian access as a priority.
“I can’t figure out why passengers have to cross car and bus lanes stopping traffic, and traffic has to stop to let passengers and bags cross all the time.
“I always wonder why passenger drop off and pickup isn’t underneath. stopping this conflict,” Dr Bruce told The New Daily.
He said with a train station on the cards, it would be the perfect opportunity to amalgamate a transport network underneath and introduce a forecourt and retail area above.
Phillip McConnell, lecturer in aviation at Swinburne University, said car rentals needed to be completely separated from airports in Australia.
“If you’re at Seattle or San Francisco airports, you take a monorail to an off-airport car rental facility which eases congestion and takes away the hassle of picking up and dropping off a car,” Mr McConnell told The New Daily.
Airline Intelligence Research managing director and former Qantas chief economist Dr Tony Webber said the best airports around the world had efficient transport networks.
“One of the best airports in the world is Denver Airport which is similarly structured to Zürich Airport, where you actually catch a train to the airport and another one to check-in,” Dr Webber told The New Daily.
“When you don’t have a train system, there’s so much congestion on the surface area leading in and out of the airports and it’s so horrific,” he said.
The annual Skytrax world’s best airport rankings in 2018 rated Singapore Changi, Incheon (South Korea), Tokyo Haneda, Hong Kong and Doha Hamad as the top five, while Sydney was ranked 20 and Melbourne was ranked 27.
A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development told The New Daily as part of the masterplans, airport lessee companies were required to consider and plan for the future needs of users at airports.
“This includes providing a ground transport plan which focuses on road network access, facilities for moving people and freight at the airport and linkages between on-airport facilities and transport links off-airport,” the spokesperson said.