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Anne Rahilly
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Research from the University of Melbourne shows how Melbourne Airport has recorded a steady increase in the share of travellers to and from Asia. Those routes make up the busiest air connection to Australia, which underscores the global significance of Melbourne’s growth. 

Published in the Journal of Transport Geography, the analysis reveals Melbourne’s share of all Australia-Asia passenger traffic increased from 15 percent in 2000 to 25 percent in 2013.

Although Sydney remains a key airport for the Asian market, its share fell over the same period from 45 percent to 35 percent. The research was carried out by Emeritus Professor Kevin O’Connor, from the Department of Urban Planning in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, in association with Professor Kurt Fuellhart, from Shippensburg University (USA).

Professor O’Connor said that the gains made by Melbourne reflect stronger links to cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Hong Kong and relied less upon the traditional gateway Singapore.

“In addition, airlines have made increased use of mid-sized long haul aircraft such as the Boeing 777 and Airbus 330 which are well suited to the Melbourne-Asia market,’ he said.

“The research found that over 80 percent of all long haul movements at Melbourne are made by these mid-sized aircraft, compared to 70 percent in Sydney.”

The research explored changes in Asian air connections in Melbourne and Sydney and found that Melbourne’s faster population growth, larger percentage change in employment in business services, a much larger gain in migration and faster growth in tourism all contributed to the relative gains made by Melbourne over this period.

The findings confirm earlier work done by Professors O’Connor and Fuellhart that showed a group of second ranked cities around the world have experienced rapid growth in air transport since 2000 as airlines, using mid-sized long haul aircraft, have provided new non-stop services.

Melbourne’s stronger gateway role to Asia makes it part of this particular group of cities.