Airports eye return of overseas travel

·2-min read

The nation's major international airports stand ready for the return of international travel, aided by federal government support to assist in additional security screening requirements.

But the country's almost 10,000 specialist ground staff believe they are being short-changed when it comes to government assistance, and fear hundreds of planes could still be grounded come Christmas.

Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has announced a further $183.65 million aviation support package, which includes a new $64 million rebate scheme to help airports offset the cost of security screening.

"As a driver of so many sectors of our economy, it is essential that the industry is ready to ramp up operations when international restrictions are eased," Mr Joyce, who is also transport minister, said.

The bulk of the money will go towards extending the International Aviation Support program, due to expire at the end of October and aimed at helping airlines maintain core jobs essential for international travel.

"Our airlines and airports will be essential as we welcome back international visitors to support the 600,000 jobs and businesses reliant on tourism," Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said.

The government has provided more than $5.1 billion in assistance to the aviation sector since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Australian Airports Association chief executive James Goodwin said the international airport security charges rebate program would support the government's reopening strategy.

"We know restarting international aviation is not as simple as just opening the border," he said.

"There will be major complexities involved but airports stand ready to ensure the operational environment, policy settings and logistics are right so overseas travel can continue to be safe and secure for all passengers and staff."

The scheme will begin in October and run until the end of March, with payments available to the major international airports in each state and territory, as well as Cairns, Gold Coast and Townsville.

But the Australian Aviation Ground Handlers Industry Alliance warns planes could remain grounded this Christmas because thousands of critical aviation ground operation workers continue to be excluded from government support.

Alliance chair Glen Rutherford said ground staff do not get the $750 a week support package announced in August that went to airline and airport workers.

"All we ask is for our 9800 specialist ground handlers to receive the same treatment as the rest of the aviation industry." Mr Rutherford said.

"We are already seeing a large proportion of our workforce pursuing other more financially secure work to get food on the table for their families."

He warned it will take at least six months to recruit workers when borders reopen, train them up and have them accredited by the government.

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