MP urges 50pc cut in fares

Geraldton Guardian - - Front Page - Zoe Keenan and Gavin Box

Air­fares to Ger­ald­ton should be cut by a third — and halved in most re­gions — ac­cord­ing to a Na­tion­als MP.

A Tourism WA sub­mis­sion to the Eco­nomics and In­dus­try Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s in­quiry into re­gional air­fares shows if air­fares are re­duced by 15 per cent it will in­ject close to $100 mil­lion into the State econ­omy and cre­ate 440 jobs.

But Na­tion­als WA tourism spokesman and mem­ber for North West Cen­tral, Vince Cata­nia, said a much greater cut was needed.

“We ac­tu­ally need to halve our air­fare cost struc­ture in most places for it to gen­er­ate tourism,” Mr Cata­nia said. “If you’re look­ing at Carnar­von, you pay $1000 for a re­turn air­fare so 15 per cent is not much at all.

“We’ve got to get it down to a min­i­mum of $500 re­turn for Carnar­von and as for Ger­ald­ton a re­turn fare is $350, it should be $200 re­turn.”

Mr Cata­nia said peo­ple who worked in re­gional WA also flew to visit fam­ily and friends, and vice versa.

“It’s not just about tourism, it’s about the abil­ity to at­tract and re­tain peo­ple in re­gional WA by giv­ing them the abil­ity to visit fam­ily and vice versa,” he said.

Mr Cata­nia said the only way air­fares could be re­duced was by a reg­u­la­tion im­posed by the State Gov­ern­ment to treat the whole of re­gional WA as one des­ti­na­tion rather than 50 sep­a­rate des­ti­na­tions.

“How the sys­tem is at the mo­ment al­lows air­lines to cherry pick what des­ti­na­tions are more cost ef­fec­tive and pos­si­ble for them,” he said.

“With a reg­u­lated sys­tem you look at how many pas­sen­gers there are Statewide and go to one player and say there’s this many pas­sen­gers and we want to charge this price.”

Mem­ber for Ger­ald­ton Ian Blayney said there was no doubt cheaper air­fares would stim­u­late re­gional tourism.

“Dereg­u­la­tion of the Ger­ald­ton to Perth route by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment re­sulted in more

It’s not just about tourism, it’s about the abil­ity to at­tract and re­tain peo­ple. Vince Cata­nia

dis­count fares but there is still ob­vi­ously a need for lower leisure fares,” he said.

“There is also po­ten­tial for a prod­uct of dis­count fare and ac­com­mo­da­tion type pack­ages put to­gether by op­er­a­tors.”

Mr Blayney said a 15 per cent re­duc­tion would help, but more might be re­quired.

Vir­gin Aus­tralia, in its sub­mis­sion to the in­quiry, said it was not com­mer­cially vi­able to in­def­i­nitely main­tain ser­vices on routes where rev­enues did not off­set costs.

It said author­i­ties could re­duce air­line costs by in­creas­ing charges for air­port park­ing and re­tail ser­vices, as well as of­fer­ing sub­si­dies to air­lines or trav­ellers.

The West Aus­tralian avi­a­tion ed­i­tor Ge­of­frey Thomas said WA re­gional air­fares com­pared favourably world­wide and many were cheaper.

“What is re­ally up­set­ting re­gional WA are low air­fare pack­ages to Bali — peo­ple com­par­ing flights from Perth to Ger­ald­ton, Al­bany or Broome with flights from Perth to Bali,” he said. “What they are over­look­ing is that the min­i­mum wage in Bali is about seven times lower than in Aus­tralia. It’s a big prob­lem and it’s not go­ing to go away.”

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