You are about to land at Avalon International Airport

Avalon’s busy passenger terminal

Avalon airport, between Melbourne and Geelong, has been struggling a little in recent years. But that will change soon. Budget Malaysian carrier AirAsia has announced it will move its twice daily Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur flights there from Tullamarine by the end of the year.

Airport owners Linfox will build a new $20 million international terminal at Avalon, in the expectation that other international airlines will start to use the facility. It will be Victoria’s second international airport, and Australia’s eleventh.

AirAsia has become one of the region’s leading budget airlines, and was named the world’s best low cost airline by Skytrax every year from 2009 to 2017. It serves 130 destinations across Asia. It plans to add direct flights from Avalon to the Philippines and other destinations from 2019.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson and Victoria’s Tourism Minister John Eren were all on hand to take some of the credit for the announcement. But none of them committed to a long-touted rail line to the airport from Melbourne, despite it being close to the exiting Melbourne-Geelong train line. The cost of a rail link is estimated at $250 million.

Ms Bishop said it was ”early days” for a rail link, despite it being talked about since the airport was privatised and a 50 year lease given to transport company Linfox in 1997. It had previously been an aircraft manufacturing and maintenance facility.

There has been no announcement of state or federal funding for the terminal, though Ms Henderson said discussions are “well underway.” Corangamite is a marginal electorate that recently received significant government grants, and a Geelong City Deal was announced last month by the Federal and Victorian State governments.

Avalon has a long 3000 metre runway, a large domestic terminal, and extensive maintenance facilities. But much of its infrastructure is underutilised. Its passenger numbers have declined in the last ten year, with Jetstar currently the only airline using it.

Your correspondent had the terminal especially opened for him when he arrived two hours early for a flight a few years ago. It has extensive freight operations, and is home to the Australian International Airshow, held every two years. The next is in March 2019.

An Avalon Airport Master plan, developed in 2013, calls for expanded terminals, more car parking, a hotel, new hangars, and of course the rail link. As a privately owned airport, it is not covered by the Commonwealth Airports Act, which heavily regulates the operations of Australia’s major airports.

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