Major airports around the country have said they won’t follow Perth’s lead in blocking Virgin planes from flying, amid calls to completely overhaul the aviation industry in Australia.
On Friday night Perth airport used heavy machinery and company vehicles to block a number of Virgin planes from taking off, in a move it said was designed to protect its own interests.
Perth Airport said the debt-laden airline owes it $16 million for airfield and terminal-use charges.
The nation’s biggest airports, Sydney and Melbourne, have said they have no plans to follow Perth’s lead and want to work ‘constructively’ with the airline.
“We have no plans to be doing that kind of thing in Melbourne,” spokesman for Melbourne Airport Grant Smith told The New Daily.
“We want to see Virgin survive and grow. We think Virgin can come back stronger with an even bigger presence in Melbourne.”
Virgin Australia entered voluntary administration on Tuesday as a result of plummeting demand because of flight restrictions.
“We are not contemplating actions of that nature,” a spokesperson for Sydney airport said.
“We are working constructively with our airline partners through this period.”
As the coffin lid all but closes on Virgin Australia’s future there have been calls to completely overhaul the aviation industry.
“We should recognise that in a big country like Australia, domestic air travel is a form of public transport,” Monash University aviation expert and author of Up in the Air Greg Bamber told The New Daily.
“It should be recognised as such in a similar way to trains, buses and trams.
“It’s an essential service, within Australia and for international travel, given that Australia is such a long way from the other countries that people wish to travel to.”
The case for nationalising airports in this country could easily be made, he said.
“In some ways it doesn’t make sense to have a profit-maximising enterprise owning an airport, any more than we would have a profit maximising Flinders Street Station, or tram stops.
“They should be a public service.”
Professor Bamber said Perth was playing dirty and that airports charge airlines and their customers unreasonably large sums for parking their planes and cars.
“In most cases they have a monopoly,” he said.
Aviation expert Neil Hansford said Virgin will likely owe each individual airport millions of dollars.
“I hate to think about what is owed to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. I hate to think what those numbers are,” he said.
“If Perth is $16 million, you could find there are massive amounts outstanding.
“You won’t know until the creditors meeting on the [April] 30th, but if they’re paying Sydney at the same rate, it might be in for $40-50 million.”
Virgin is currently flying a limited schedule under its normal management, as administrators seek a buyer for the company.