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Aviation should seize all opportunities, says Sunshine Coast Airport CEO

Andrew Brodie, CEO of Sunshine Coast Airport, discusses the wide range of new developments currently underway at the airport and how it has seized the opportunities created by COVID-19 as part of International Airport Review’s exclusive CEO series.

Andrew Brodie - Sunshine Coast Airport

How did your career in the aviation industry begin?

From a background in property asset management, my career in the aviation industry began at Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) as the General Manager of Aviation and Commercial.

Some of my highlights at BAC included delivering the highest international growth the airport had experienced in the last decade through the strategic evaluation and re-positioning of inbound and outbound aviation and marketing strategies, as well as delivering the international and domestic terminal redevelopment projects. That experience with BAC led to my appointment as CEO of Sunshine Coast Airport (MCY) in February 2019.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an airport CEO? On the other hand, what is most difficult?

Supporting our people as we go about growing our business is definitely the most rewarding aspect”

It’s always been about people for me. Supporting our people as we go about growing our business is definitely the most rewarding aspect, which is what’s made the last few months with the COVID-19 pandemic also the most difficult.

Like many businesses, we’ve had to stand down staff and that’s been tough – it’s something which plays on your mind constantly as you try to steer a business into unchartered economic waters. But our people have risen to the challenge and it’s certainly been an unexpected but rewarding team building experience.

Can you give us an overview of the three most exciting developments currently happening at your airport?

We’ll also be focussing on bringing our gateway precinct to life, which will include a freight centre to support our region’s burgeoning food and agriculture industry”

We have so many exciting projects underway it’s hard to list just three!

We have recently opened a new runway – longer and wider than our previous runway at 2450m by 45m – which will be a gamechanger for our region, opening up new destinations further afield and enabling more freight to leave our region in the belly of passenger aircraft. That project will be fully completed in December 2020, including new apron and taxiway areas.

We’ll also be focussing on bringing our gateway precinct to life, which will include a freight centre to support our region’s burgeoning food and agriculture industry. The precinct may also include services such as a hotel, as well as the convenience of food outlets, a service centre or a gym. With the proximity to the airport, maybe even a day care facility or pet hotel.

We also have plans in the works to upgrade our current general aviation facilities to tie in with the new runway and grow our general aviation precinct. This, coupled with the region’s new broadband cable, could see the Sunshine Coast position itself as a true aeronautical hub.

What is the biggest challenge your airport is having to tackle?

COVID-19 is undoubtably the biggest challenge we face at the moment. We went from being Australia’s fastest growing airport to one of the only airports in the country with no passenger aircraft, and from record passenger numbers in October 2019 to no passengers at all. About half of our 530 airport jobs were impacted, and around $500 million lost to the tourism industry across the wider Sunshine Coast region as a result of COVID-19 impacts.

Having said that, we’re already starting to rebuild, having just announced a new route (and our first ever intrastate destination) to Cairns, which kicks off in July 2020.

At this moment in time, what do you see as the biggest disruptor to the aviation industry?

The disruption has given us an incredible opportunity to re-focus on what truly matters”

Again, the COVID-19 pandemic has bought the industry to its knees, but, at the same time, the disruption has given us an incredible opportunity to re-focus on what truly matters to us as a business. The disruption has accelerated opportunities for us to diversify as a business and contribute to creating local jobs and boosting the economy into the future.

It also gives us a ‘clean slate’ for aviation recovery when travel restrictions are lifted. We are lucky enough to have a destination which performs strongly domestically. Blessed with stunning beaches, rainforests and a thriving food scene, we were the fastest growing visitor destination in Queensland last year, and we know already that there’s a lot of pent up demand for people wanting to travel to the Sunshine Coast once travel restrictions are lifted.

In your opinion, how does the aviation industry need to adapt to secure its place in the future?

We need to be agile in this fast-paced, ever-changing landscape”

We, and the rest of the aviation industry, need to be agile in this fast-paced, ever-changing landscape.

To do so, we need to focus on a collaborative future, working with our community, airline partners, tourism operators and other airports. Our recent new route announcement to Cairns is a perfect example of this, and the last thing anyone would have expected in a COVID-19 environment.  However, by working with the government and airlines in the industry, we’ve been able to pull off probably what’s been the most popularly asked for new destination over the last few years. We regard this as a real coup for our airport, our tourism partners and our region.

What does the future of the aviation industry look like to you?

We hope to see the opportunities created through this period of disruption seized”

We are very excited about our place in the future of the aviation industry. Recent data shows we have unmet demand from our region to ports such as Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Mackay, Perth, Townsville and Canberra, so we’ll be working hard to meet that. We’re also working toward securing year-round services to New Zealand, as well as expand into Asia when the time is right – Singapore or Hong Kong would provide us with a gateway to the rest of the world.

We are also excited about our master plan, which will see us develop projects that will support local jobs – estimated to grow to 2100 by 2040 – and the economy. Increased aviation activity will further support tourism, agriculture and businesses based on the Sunshine Coast, so we see our role in the aviation industry as a pivotal one in supporting our region.

The aviation industry has always been about innovation. So, as far as the wider aviation industry goes, we hope to see the opportunities created through this period of disruption seized, and an even more exciting industry into the future.

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