Spot­light back on high air­fare costs

Broome Advertiser - - News - Jakeb Wad­dell

The cost of fly­ing to Broome has an ad­verse ef­fect on tourism, busi­nesses and es­sen­tial ser­vices, a gov­ern­ment in­quiry into the price of re­gional airfares was told, as an­other pub­lic hear­ing was held in Broome last week.

Key or­gan­i­sa­tions and groups pitched their best case to the Fed­eral in­quiry into the op­er­a­tion, reg­u­la­tion and fund­ing of air route ser­vice de­liv­ery to ru­ral, re­gional and re­mote com­mu­ni­ties, less than eight months af­ter a sim­i­lar State Gov­ern­ment panel held a hear­ing in town.

In their pre­sen­ta­tion to the com­mit­tee, Broome Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try pres­i­dent Peter Tay­lor and ex-chief ex­ec­u­tive Jael Nap­per said mem­bers of the lo­cal busi­ness sec­tor were un­able to at­tend train­ing and de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause of ex­pen­sive fares.

They said it was costly for busi­nesses to trans­port staff in and out of town, es­pe­cially at short no­tice.

In a sub­mis­sion sim­i­lar to the one pre­sented to last year’s panel, Broome In­ter­na­tional Air­port chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul McSweeney said the hub prided it­self on hav­ing com­pet­i­tive se­cu­rity, land­ing and ter­mi­nal fees. He said the to­tal aero­nau­ti­cal fee on a reg­u­lar re­turn fare was about $60, or 7.5 per­cent of a ticket price.

“BIA con­tin­ues to work closely with air­lines and other key stake­hold­ers to further grow ser­vices, de­velop com­pe­ti­tion on ma­jor routes, and to ul­ti­mately see airfares at a level that makes Broome an at­trac­tive and sus­tain­able tourism des­ti­na­tion,” he said.

Mr McSweeney said tourists ac­counted for 46 per cent of pas­sen­gers who passed through the air­port, with 34 per­cent oil and gas op­er­a­tors and the re­main­ing 20 per­cent res­i­dents.

Shire of Broome coun­cil­lor Chris Mitchell and com­mu­nity and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment man­ager Mark Davies spoke at the hear­ing about the im­pact the cost of air ser­vices to the Kim­ber­ley town had on tourism.

In its sub­mis­sion, the Shire said it would wel­come Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance in main­tain­ing and de­vel­op­ing Broome’s eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity, and called for greater trans­parency from air­lines when set­ting airfares. “The cur­rent cost of air travel has been shown to be in­hibitive to po­ten­tial vis­i­tors and in­crease the iso­la­tion for res­i­dents,” the sub­mis­sion read.

“The high cost of flights do not as­sist in the promotion of Broome as an af­ford­able or ac­ces­si­ble tourist des­ti­na­tion.”

The Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice and oil and gas gi­ant In­pex also made sub­mis­sions to the in­quiry, both of which have a strong pres­ence in Broome.

RFDS chief ex­ec­u­tive Martin Laverty said the not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion could pro­vide a unique per­spec­tive into the in­quiry.

“While pri­mary evac­u­a­tions in­cur no charge to a pa­tient, the RFDS is gen­er­ally not funded to pro­vide repa­tri­a­tion flights to re­turn the pa­tient to where they were evac­u­ated, and in­stead pri­vate ar­range­ments tend to be nec­es­sary,” he said.

“Further pres­sure is of­ten ex­pe­ri­enced by the pa­tient once re­cov­ered in try­ing to find an af­ford­able travel op­tion.”

In­pex ex­ter­nal af­fairs gen­eral man­ager Bill Townsend said the com­pany was com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing the com­mu­ni­ties where they op­er­ate, and said the costs of airfares were “a sig­nif­i­cant ex­pense” for oil and gas op­er­a­tors, as well as tourists, busi­ness and lo­cals.

As ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Cr Mitchell also spoke on be­half of Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Aus­tralia at the hear­ing. Kim­ber­ley Abo­rig­i­nal Med­i­cal Ser­vices deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive Rob McPhee also pre­sented.

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

An­other gov­ern­ment in­quiry into the cost of re­gional airfares was held in Broome last week.

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