Regional air operators

Air transport in NSW.

It is our role to regulate (and deregulate) the all-important intrastate air routes provided across NSW by regional operators. We do so in accordance with the Air Transport Act 1964.

The Act also requires Transport for NSW to license air services from one place in NSW to another place in NSW.

Air transport licences are allocated following a fair and competitive application process.

Licensing functions are vested by the Director-General and appeals are reviewable by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

Operator obligations under the Act

Under the Act, operators are required to submit quarterly passenger statistics to Transport for NSW, for each route linked to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, whether regulated or deregulated. This is to ensure continued collection and publication of data on intrastate airline activity.

Regulated routes

Regulation includes limiting competition on low volume routes that aren’t always robust and may need protection to provide stability and encourage market development. We also license these routes on a one-route/one-licence basis.

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 usually applies.

Where regulated routes exceed the 50,000 level during the licence term, the five-year commitment takes precedence over deregulating the routes. The regulated route licence will run its full term (subject to licence conditions).

The routes between Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport and the following localities remain regulated:

  • Lord Howe Island
  • Moree

Licence exemptions under the Act

The following services are exempt from licensing requirements:

  • 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
  • the provision of a regular air transport service over a deregulated route.

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

  • Interstate or international flights (i.e. 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 (i.e. those landing at the airport of origin)
  • Airship or hot-air balloon operations
  • Commercial regional aviation services in Australia
  • Transport links to major populated islands.

Deregulated routes

Higher volume routes are deregulated (unlicensed) because they can operate competitively. The Minister for Transport has declared all intrastate routes not linked to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport and the routes between Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport and the following localities as deregulated:

  • Albury
  • Armidale
  • Ballina
  • Broken Hill
  • Cobar
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Cooma
  • Dubbo
  • Grafton
  • Griffith
  • Lismore
  • Merimbula
  • Moruya
  • Mudgee
  • Narrabri
  • Narranderra
  • Orange
  • Parkes
  • Port Macquarie
  • Tamworth
  • Taree
  • Wagga Wagga
  • Williamtown


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

Transport for NSW
GPO Box K659
Haymarket NSW 1240