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Mining industry a key priority for regional flights in Western Australia

Media release

The mining sector was more influential in determining the total number of seats offered on regional flights in Western Australia than the tourism industry, new research led by Curtin University has found.

The research, published in the Journal of Air Transport Management, found that distance, airfare cost, catchment areas, population, tourism and the mining sector all played a key role in determining regional flights in the State.

Lead author PhD student Mr Heng Zhou, from the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin University, said the research uncovered new information about domestic regional travel patterns in WA.

“The aviation industry plays a vital role in the economic and social development of WA, as it connects remote and regional areas and provides key services and resources to local communities, tourism and mining industries,” Mr Zhou said.

“The aim of our study was to understand the total available air passenger seats on regular public transport air routes by investigating the link between catchment areas of airports and high air travel demand, as well as comparing the significance of the tourism and mining industries.

“Our research found that air routes connecting to major mine sites in regional WA, including Karratha, Port Hedland and Kalgoorlie, have the highest number of seats available on regional flights, compared to popular tourist locations within the State.”

Co-author Associate Professor Jianhong (Cecilia) Xia, also from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, explained that while the research findings highlight the mining industry to be a key priority area, more needs to be done to increase tourist numbers in WA.

“Our research found that airfare costs were found to play an important role in estimating the total available seats offered on regional flights compared to other variables,” Associate Professor Xia said.

“WA has always had a strong mining focus, but with the recent tourism strategy aiming to increase the value in tourism in WA to $12 billion by 2020, there is a strong need to accommodate this with more regional flights.

“Our findings may be of interest to policy makers in WA, and could help to improve the understanding of the key parameters of regional passenger aviation services and help address relevant issues in the WA aviation industry.”

The research was funded by the Department of Transport WA. It was co-authored by Professor Torbjorn Falkmer from the School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology, Professor Jie Sun from the School of Electrical Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Mr Keone Kelobonye from the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin University, Dr Brett Hughes and Ms Gabi Nikolova from the Department of Transport WA, as well as researchers from Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology and Liaoning Normal University in China.

The research paper, Investigating the impact of catchment areas of airports on estimating air travel demand: A case study of regional Western Australian, can be found online here.