I'm not a fan of the argument that WLG should not get a runway extension because, currently
, no long-haul airlines have been petitioning for this. Could you imagine if airports around the world waited to start building infrastructure, until there were commitments and/or expressions of interest for its use? That's what AKL looks like, and it's a total mess. All investment requires an element of risk - IMO, if the investor is not willing to burden a risk, then he/she should not be entitled to reap the benefits, should the investment succeed.
Aside from the very obvious safety-related benefits of the runway extension, IMO, it's extremely naive to suggest that if the extension is secured, it's highly unlikely that at least a few long-haul carriers would make use of it in the 2020's or 2030's. Look at AKL - 15 years ago, would you have imagined that we would have flights to DOH, IAH, ORD, CTU, CKG, SZX and/or XIY? Or at CHC - would you have imagined that it would have flights to CAN, TPE, DXB and/or HKG? Markets change - it's about showing some foresight and vision!
We should note that:
1. WLG, though not big, has potential - SQ flies there (yes, with a subsidy), and it has more demand to China than the likes of CBR.
2. Earlier in May, SQ said that "the airline has recorded double digit growth on the number of passengers travelling to SIN from WLG
3. Many airlines are already at 2x daily AKL / 1x daily CHC services, like CZ and EK - these carriers could be enticed to use WLG.
4. Regulatory bodies (or the threat of them) can be a tool to facilitate use of secondary airports, as occurred with CX / NZ at CHC.
5. Non-stop flights stimulate demand that wasn't previously there - e.g. when NZ launched AKL - IAH, Texan tourist arrivals doubled.
6. The economics of long-haul flights to WLG will only get better, with new technology coming online, like more fuel-efficient aircraft.
Notably, on point 3. above, IMO, the following airlines and routes to WLG are just some of the very possible contenders, in 10 years:EK
(on DXB - Australia - WLG
EK has said its relationship with QF may die down, as QF by-passes DXB with the likes of PER / SYD / MEL - LHR / CDG / FRA. As such, restraint on a BNE / SYD / MEL / SIN - WLG service would be reduced, allowing EK to better tap European - WLG demand, and challenge SQ's European - Australasian positioning.CZ
(on CAN - WLG
As the dominant player in Chinese traffic to Australasia, and already being strong at AKL and CHC (with multiple daily seasonal frequencies), as well as with the right-sized 788, CZ could take advantage of WLG having the second highest un-met non-stop demand to China from Oceania, and tap European traffic too. SQ
(on SIN - WLG
SQ is already reporting strong growth ex-WLG to SIN (at a double-digit rate), which naturally, in 10 years, could lead to enough support for non-stop SIN - WLG flights. This would be in line with SQ's strategy of dominating the Australasian end of its Kangaroo route offering, with the likes of CBR, CHC, CNS and DRW too.
I don't feel strongly one way or the other about who should fund the extension, or even whether the extension should and will go ahead, but I think that we need to make better arguments than simply saying that WLG is currently "too small" or that "no long-haul airlines have shown an interest," and that therefore, the runway extension debate should end. Those don't really add anything to the debate - they don't take note of what's happened in the past in New Zealand, and what the growth trajectory and trends suggest for the future.