Call for $250 single airfare
It seems an impossible dream — a flat-rate $250 one-way airfare between Perth and the Pilbara at any time of the year, be it Christmas, school holidays, or a long weekend.
But it is a dream Pilbara Regional Council’s most recent push might deliver, with the aim to secure a Government-funded “public transport” subsidy to create a “regular flight price”.
PRC chief executive Tony Friday said the organisation was in talks with Federal and State ministers, Government departments, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, airlines, and resource industry representatives about creating a flight subsidy for the region.
He said the council was “modelling” its proposal with the hope passengers would one day be able to buy a $250 flight one-way, irrespective of the time of year, adding it would be “co-funded by the Federal Government and big industry to remove some of the current level of price distortion”.
“We are conscious that in terms of public transport subsidy, every time you jump on a train or a bus in the metropolitan area the State picks up a part of that bill,” he said.
“In the regional areas that subsidy is non-existent.
“Our version of public transport is air travel ... but that regional subsidy doesn’t exist, despite it being the Pilbara, which contributes a disproportionate amount of money to the State economy.”
It was a far-fetched idea, Mr Friday said, but one that would create certainty for residents and increase the Pilbara’s liveability.
“It makes an enormous difference both at an individual and business level — it costs governments a fortune flying staff to and from the region, and we are conscious that our residents are sometimes delaying medical treatments and the like,” he said.
“Passengers can get that price ($250), but you have to book well in advance; we are proposing this as a regular flight price.”
Mr Friday said the proposal should be market-regulated and the return journeys from Perth to the Pilbara restricted to residents only. He said although the proposal was just a “commerce in-confidence document” at the moment, the council hoped to have a clear action plan after the March election.
The idea was initially touted to an audience of more than 300 at the New Pilbara Conference in Perth last month.
Port Hedland International Airport chief executive Mitchell Cameron said he supported the proposal in principle.