Brisbane airport may seek ACCC intervention in funding dispute

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Brisbane Airport Corp (BAC) could refer its disagreement with carriers on funding for a new parallel runway to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) if negotiations fail.

In a statement, the airport operator says that "referring the matter to the ACCC is an option" but it "remains committed to reaching agreement with the airlines in commercial negotiations which are still ongoing".

The dispute centres around additional passenger charges that BAC is seeking to help finance the runway. The airport is seeking to gradually increase the charge on domestic passengers by A$0.35 ($0.37) on domestic passengers and A$3.15 per passenger on international services by 2017.

Carriers have attacked the plan, saying that it would amount to pre-financing the runway, and have refused to collect the additional charges.

BAC says that the increased charges will only cover 25% of the construction costs for the new runway, with the remaining 75% to be financed through loans and shareholder contributions.

The new runway is seen as vital to helping ease chronic delays during peak periods at Brisbane airport as it would enable it to handle more aircraft movements.

Construction of the runway was approved in 2007 by the Australian government, but was delayed in 2009 because of the global financial crisis. There are fears that the funding dispute could further delay the programme.

BAC says, however, that the new runway remains on track to open in 2020, and initial site works are currently underway.