Cost of flights is ‘ap­palling’

Pilbara News - - News - Ben Leahy and Re­becca Par­ish

The cost of air­fares in and out of the Pil­bara is ap­palling, Hed­land air­port chair­woman says.

Speak­ing at last week’s Hed­land Eco­nomic and Re­sources Fo­rum, Port Hed­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port Group of Com­pa­nies chair­woman Ch­eryl Ed­wardes qual­i­fied her state­ment by say­ing she was mak­ing them as an air­line cus­tomer, not as an air­port ex­ec­u­tive.

“OK, let me take my air­port hat off,” she said in re­sponse to a ques­tion from the fo­rum au­di­ence.

“I can’t be­lieve the price for an econ­omy seat from Perth to Port Hed­land. I think it’s ap­palling.

“Putting my air­port hat on, those are some of the dis­cus­sions that we are hav­ing (with air­lines). If we can in­tro­duce com­pe­ti­tion, ob­vi­ously that would also as­sist, but what we don’t want to do is have dis­cus­sions which are likely to lose you ser­vices. “It’s a bit of a bal­anc­ing trick.” Ms Ed­wardes’ com­ments come as com­mu­ni­ties across the Pil­bara have been lob­by­ing air­lines and the State Gov­ern­ment for lower air­fares.

Last Septem­ber, New­man res­i­dent Cyndy Wil­liams started a pe­ti­tion call­ing for cheaper air­fares, while Kar­ratha se­condary stu­dent Liam Payne trav­elled to State Par­lia­ment to read out a sim­i­lar pe­ti­tion.

Pil­bara Re­gional Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Fri­day agreed with Ms Ed­wardes at the fo­rum, say­ing he be­lieved most flights from Perth to Hed­land were op­er­at­ing at bet­ter ca­pac­i­ties than sim­i­lar flights on the east coast.

“I think there’s an el­e­ment of profit-tak­ing from a captive fly-in, fly­out mar­ket that needs to be ad­dressed,” he said. Qan­tas did not re­ply by dead­line to

a Tele­graph re­quest for com­ment. A Vir­gin Aus­tralia spokes­woman said the air­line did “not com­ment on the pric­ing of a par­tic­u­lar route for com­mer­cial rea­sons”.

“How­ever, it is driven by a num­ber of fac­tors, in­clud­ing mar­ket con­di­tions, de­mand, op­er­at­ing costs and air­port pric­ing and taxes,” she said.

Pic­ture: ToPH

Port Hed­land coun­cil­lors are to vote next month on whether to en­dorse a pro­posal to lease the air­port to a pri­vate op­er­a­tor.

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