By BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
JACKSON International Airport is flying through rough times as its facilities are inadequate to cater for the growing number of people it handles daily, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) boss Joseph Kintau said.
Mr Kintau said the airport was built to cater for about 300,000 travellers annually (more than 1,000 daily), but a drastic surge in travellers to more than one million a year (3,000-plus daily) had put massive constraints on airport facilities and services.
The revelation last week followed concerns by several airline executives that the facilities, such as toilets and lounging areas were in appalling conditions, depriving travellers their comfort and convenience.
Concerns were also raised on congestion during peak traffic such as the recent PNG games and the inevitable festive travel.
CAA has also admitted the current situation is that the physical condition of the airports nationwide has deteriorated to an unacceptable stage that has breached the compliance requirements of ICAO for safety and security of the airports.
At present, CAA could not do much to fix most of these problems because 80% of revenue generated exclusively by Jackson International Airport is shared to meet expenses in 20 other airports nationwide.
The K19 million budget allocation from the Government was also grossly insufficient, as major airports such as Jackson, Nadzab, Madang, Tokua and Mt Hagen require between K2 million and K15 million annually, while the rest require between K500,000 and K2 million yearly.
Mr Kintau revealed that CAA had been operating on a budget deficit of close to K19 million after the budget allocation comes in to offset some of the shortfall.
He said Jackson could survive on its own, but if that was allowed, “the entire airport network will collapse as they will not have the means to operate”.
And with the number of travellers to increase by next year as a result of the PNG LNG project and other socio-economic developments, CAA is uniting all its effort to rectify the constraints and remains optimistic.
With his back against the wall, Mr Kintau said it was not “all doom and gloom” as CAA would embark on several projects next year to address some of these issues.
“Our interim plan is to grapple with these issues because we are here to serve the people,” he said.
By next March, the Jackson domestic terminal would undergo a massive K40 million makeover.
The project, to be funded by a loan from the ANZ Bank, will see massive changes where the current terminal would have arrivals downstairs and departures on top.
The current car park would be transformed into a plaza and the areas accommodating the bus stop and lawns would become a car park.
The international terminal would also see similar changes in due course.
Also, CAA through the Government, has secured K1.8 billion loan from the Asian Development Bank over nine years to upgrade and modernise major airports.
The ADB will fund 85% while the Government will put in 15% as counterpart funding.
CAA will also embark on an intensive campaign starting next year with provincial governments, including Air Niugini, to manage provincial airports in a bid to improve service delivery.
Mr Kintau said his management team had and would work tirelessly to ensure these projects get off the ground and achieve desired outcomes.
“These projects will position the aviation industry to be able to be competitive in an environment of ever increasing customer expectations,” he said.
By next year, CAA would be known as National Airports Corporation Ltd.
It would be a State-owned aviation enterprise.
The operating businesses are PNG Air Services Ltd and PNG Airports Ltd.