Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has backed calls for a third runway at Perth Airport, saying the cost of congestion and longer taxiing times was "quite significant" for the airline.
"There is a problem with airport infrastructure in Perth, as we've known for some time, and the congestion is costing a lot of money to the economy of Perth and to the airlines as well," he told the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday.
"We're growing quite extensively in Perth and we would love to have more infrastructure both in the terminals, taxiways and the (third) runway."
Perth Airport chief executive Brad Geatches said he welcomed Mr Joyce's comments and said the airport had the capacity and preparedness to build the third runway, if the airlines using Perth Airport wanted it to be brought forward.
"Perth Airport has recently completed the concept design, capital cost estimate and timeframes to construct the third runway, and will commence discussions with airlines before the end of the year on the timing of the construction," he said
However, Mr Joyce warned that as a matter of principle airport owners, not airlines, should foot the bill for new facilities, pointing out Qantas did not slug today's customers with a surcharge to pay for Boeing 787 Dreamliners, due to be delivered in 2016.
Airlines in the current economic climate could not afford to contribute to the upfront cost of new terminals and runways.
"I don't see why airlines today should be funding airport infrastructure for the future and pre-paying for infrastructure that is giving us no benefit today and in some cases for our competitors to get access to it," Mr Joyce said.
He contrasted the slow pace of airport development in Australia to China, which was building 82 airports over five years, the equivalent of a new airport opening every 23 days.
Over the past five years, Qantas has increased seats within WA by 15 per cent annually, including adding direct flights between the Pilbara and Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.