Australia’s premier airport is partway through a $500 million upgrade but don’t expect an arrivals lounge to appear anytime soon.
“Sydney’s passenger population simply wouldn’t support it – I just don’t think it's viable” the CEO of Sydney Airport, Russell Balding, told Australian Business Traveller.
“The difficulty is that Sydney is not a transit hub airport, we are an end-point airport, and an arrivals lounge really only works for airports where you have a lot of transit passengers. We talk to a number of independent lounge operators who look at this from a business perspective and at this stage the numbers just don’t stack up.”
Even a lounge located landside or beyond customs, in the public arrivals space – as is the case with Cathay Pacific’s Arrivals Lounge in Hong Kong – holds little appeal to Balding. “When I’m staying in Hong Kong my priority is to pick up the bags, clear customs, get in the car or on the train, and get to my hotel in the city!”
Sydney Airport chief Russell Balding: no incoming arrivals lounge for Sydnery but more space for passengers heading to the US
What Sydney International airport is getting is a revamp of Pier C – the secondary wing of the terminal which is home to Air New Zealand, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, United and V Australia, among others.
“Pier C serves just over 50% of the passengers and a number of the Chinese airlines also come out of there” explains Balding. “So we’re currently in the planning stages to refresh Pier C to make sure we have adequate space and facilities for passengers, especially around the gate lounges.”
Balding says that passengers arrive earlier than they used to due to today’s tighter security measures, which increases the number of people milling around the airport waiting for their flight.
“We need to provide them with more space and a more relaxing atmosphere so they can shop if they want, then relax and enjoy some pretty good food and beverages.”
“A number of our flights to the US go out of Pier C and you have to go through secondary screening, so we’re also trying to rejig some more gate lounge space for passengers there.”
And Balding’s favourite airport (after Sydney, of course)?
“I’m very impressed with both Singapore and Hong Kong" he enthuses. "Singapore is a very good airport, especially if you look at Terminal 3 it works works very well and has clearly been built for the future, as has Hong Kong. And Beijing Capital is right up there, it’s absolutely world-class. When you visit this amazing airport and realise it handles 73 million passengers a year, it puts things into perspective.”