Airlines chase share of FIFO boom

CobhamQantas is the latest company to jump on the FIFO bandwagon as the phenomenon looks internationally following the latest moves to import workers from overseas for mining.


The $6.4 billion Alpha coal project west of Rockhampton is the first of nine proposed mines in central Queensland to be assessed by the state government. Indian company GVK and Gina Rinehart's Hancock Coal are planning to begin construction next year, after being granted conditional approval by the state government for the mine this week.
More than 3500 workers will be needed during construction and almost 1000 once the mine is operating.
Gina Rinehart has also gained Gillard government permission to import 1700 foreign workers for Hancock's Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline would be ready when it came to new routes and cited the service to Mt Newman due to start next month as an example. Qantas recently acquired Perth-based FIFO operator Network Aviation and has secured a $35 million contract to service Fortescue Metals' operations.
Fortescue told the federal inquiry on FIFO recently that it would save $33 million each year if it switched its 330 residential workers in Port Hedland to fly-in fly-out workers.
Network was looking for more Fokker 100 jets to expand from six to ten by the end of the year.
By 2015 the WA resources industry is expected to employ about 110,000 people, with about 57% of these - or 63,500 workers - on FIFO rosters.
The Pilbara Development Commission is concerned the mining industry's monopoly on hotel accommodation is holding back tourism in the region. It has brought in consultants to look at the current state of short-stay accommodation in the region and what can be done to free-up hotel and motel rooms for tourists.
Tourism operators in Mount Isa say the costly housing market means many mining workers opt to live semi-permanently in caravan parks, making tourist accommodation hard to find.
The Gold Coast is confident of securing a fly-in, fly-out service with a major airline with stakeholders quietly confident as talks with an airline well advanced.
Earlier this month Sunshine Coast Airport secured a FIFO deal with Rio Tinto for four charter flights a week to Clermont, in central Queensland.
Cobham Aviation Services has also extended its FIFO service contract with energy company Santos to the remote Cooper Basin area until 2018, securing a six year contract valued at over $50 million. The contract will see one of Australia's newest Avro RJ100 jets fly weekly from Adelaide to Santos' gas facilities at Moomba and Ballera, 800km northeast of Adelaide.
A new air charter company, JetGo Australia, says it received the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's green light on last week and will start flying for the fly-in fly-out market in early June. Chief executive Jason Ryder says the company's on-demand service will free miners from the restrictions of airline schedules.
It has one 36-seat Embraer jet in operation and four more on order from Brazil. Sydney-based JetGo services the Bowen Basin, Cloncurry, Weipa, Groote Eylandt and Mount Isa.