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Regional air legislative and policy framework

Transport for NSW regulates intrastate air services in NSW, in accordance with the Air Transport Act 1964 (the AT Act).
Under section 3 of the AT Act, air services from one place in NSW to another place in NSW cannot be conducted unless the person is the holder of a licence. A number of exemptions to the licensing provisions are established within the AT Act, namely:

  • services operating on fewer than 5 occasions within any period of 28 days over the route;
  • the provision of a charter service, being any air transport service that is operated or provided otherwise than as a regular service over a particular route; and
  • the provision of a regular air transport service over a deregulated route.

The Minister for Transport has the power to deregulate intrastate air routes and has declared all intrastate routes not linked to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport and the routes between Sydney Kingsford Smith Airportas deregulated including:

  • Albury
  • Armidale
  • Ballina
  • Cobar
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Cooma
  • Dubbo
  • Griffith
  • Lismore
  • Mudgee
  • Narrabri
  • Orange
  • Port Macquarie
  • Tamworth
  • Wagga Wagga
  • Williamtown

Transport for NSW licenses low volume intrastate air routes, based on a one route-one licence policy, under the AT Act. These licensing arrangements recognise that high volume routes should be deregulated, but low volume routes are potentially vulnerable and licensing protects them from competition, to increase stability and encourage market development.  The following policy currently applies:

  • the threshold for a route being allocated to one licensed operator only is that the route operates at or below 50,000 passengers per annum;
  • a five-year licence term currently applies;
  • where regulated routes exceed the 50,000 level during the licence term, the five-year commitment takes precedence over deregulating the routes; and
  • regulated route licences will run their full term, subject to licence conditions.

Air transport licences are allocated following a fair and competitive application process. The current licence term expires in March 2018.

The licensing functions in relation to regulated routes are vested in the Director-General. There is also an appeal provision for decisions made by the Director-General with respect to a licence application reviewable by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

A regulation under the ATAct requires all operators to submit quarterly passenger statistics to Transport for NSW, for each route linked to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, whether regulated or deregulated. This Regulation is to ensure continued collection and publication of data on intrastate airline activity.

It is also not necessary for the following operations/services to hold a NSW licence:

  • Interstate or international flights (ie services operated from a port in NSW direct to one outside NSW)
  • Charter flights (noting that under the AT Act charters are not permitted to fly the same route more than four times over any 28 day period unless specifically authorised)
  • Flights not carrying passengers for cash or kind
  • Freight operations
  • Air work, including that requiring the carriage of operatives (eg cameramen)
  • Joy flights (ie those landing at the airport of origin)
  • Airship or hot-air balloon operations
  • Commercial Regional Aviation Services in Australia and Transport Links to Major Populated Islands


Correspondence and information requests on regional aviation matters should be directed to:

Transport for NSW, GPO Box K659, Haymarket NSW 1240


Last updated: 2 November 2016