Mining companies are set to be slugged more for flying in the peak morning hours at Perth Airport as part of a bold bid to cut congestion that their fly-in fly-out workforces create for other travellers.
Perth Airport chief executive Brad Geatches also revealed that the airport is in preliminary discussions with resources giants and their charter airlines over contributing towards the $600 million third runway, should it be needed.
Delays at the airport have become one of the biggest headaches for business in the State, prompting a widespread review of the airfield's short and long-term options to alleviate congestion.
Unlike Brisbane airport, which has begun building a third runway as part of a five-year process, Perth would not normally be due for a third runway yet as it handles 40 per cent less aircraft than the Queensland capital.
However, in a sign of the stresses that the resources boom is placing on WA infrastructure, early morning flights ferrying workers to and from mine sites are sparking long queues on Perth's tarmac.
Mr Geatches said that this demanded changes to the current charging and queuing arrangements if an expensive third runway was to be avoided in the short-term.
"It's almost like electricity generation," he told _WestBusiness _.
"Unfortunately, you have to construct power stations for the peak demand so that the lights don't go out. It's not quite as bad in airports but the truth is that we design our infrastructure for peak demand and the fact is that demand is being driven by the resource sector."
In the short-term, as part of a review of the so-called slot system that determines which aircraft get priority, Mr Geatches said a price increase of the $205 minimum airfield landing and takeoff charge was likely at peak times to encourage airlines that could fly in shoulder periods to do so.
"The situation does lend itself to some form of peak-hour pricing where it brings in an element of user-pays, so if you are wedded to operating in that peak hour period a peak hour price is a way of saying that is a way you can carry some of the burden," he said.
Mr Geatches said that the slot system would remain regulated, rather than being a straight auction system, to ensure that regular passenger liners were not disadvantaged.
And for the first time he confirmed that the cost of a third runway, if airlines and mining companies were prepared to help fund it, would be about $600 million. "As we have discussed with them their needs and the fact that their needs outstrip or capacity in the morning peak, there has been general dialogue about a third runway and how you might fund it," he said.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy director Damian Callachor said while it was committed to working with the airport on slot management changes and a possible third runway, it did have concerns that changes could have significant impacts on rostering, fatigue management and costs.
"Industry does not want aviation to derail operations given the significant benefits these projects provide to WA," he said.
"While not opposed to a third runway, the CME would like to see the detail on how it would be funded. Should it be expected industry fund the runway, companies would then expect exclusive rights."