Coun­cil urges open skies

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

The head of the Pil­bara’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment body has called for the State Gov­ern­ment to stop toy­ing with the avi­a­tion in­dus­try as the Gov­ern­ment launches an in­quiry into prices for re­gional air­fares.

Tourism Min­is­ter Paul Pa­palia an­nounced the in­quiry into flight costs last week, which will re­port on fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the high cost of re­gional air­fares and pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions on how to limit costs.

Pil­bara Re­gional Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Fri­day said Gov­ern­ment med­dling, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to pro­tected routes, should be front and cen­tre of the de­bate.

Mr Fri­day said pro­tected routes lim­ited the num­ber of car­ri­ers el­i­gi­ble to ser­vice re­gional routes, with the aim of en­sur­ing con­ti­nu­ity of ser­vice.

“It is noth­ing more than mar­ket in­ter­ven­tion, not let­ting the free mar­ket op­er­ate openly,” he said.

“These prob­lems are of Gov­ern­ment mak­ing — fringe ben­e­fits tax tin­ker­ing, routes tin­ker­ing — get the hell out of the way and let a gen­uinely open mar­ket de­ter­mine pric­ing.”

Mr Fri­day said Qan­tas and Vir­gin were sim­ply do­ing their job to max­imise re­turns to share­hold­ers.

He said if the State Gov­ern­ment in­sisted on tin­ker­ing with the mar­ket, it should in­tro­duce sim­i­lar sub­si­dies to what is pro­vided for pub­lic trans­port in Perth.

Dampier res­i­dent Shari Kyle is the lat­est in a long line of Pil­bara res­i­dents to take aim at the cost of re­gional air travel.

In Ms Kyle’s case, it was not a ticket, but a $144 freight cost from Perth to Kar­ratha for a pass­port which had her miffed.

A spokes­woman for Mr Pa­palia said freight costs would not be in­cluded in the in­quiry.

Ms Kyle said with the amount of seats avail­able on most flights, car­ri­ers should look into pro­vid­ing cheap last-minute air­fares.

“In­stead they just take ad­van­tage of peo­ple in a des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion by do­ing the op­po­site,” she said.

A Qan­tas spokes­woman said fac­tors such as land­ing fees, air­craft type and de­mand all con­trib­uted to pric­ing.

The spokes­woman said the perk­ilo­me­tre cost of small air­craft on thin­ner routes was sig­nif­i­cantly higher, which was re­flected in pric­ing.

The spokes­woman said high air­port charges in re­gional WA con­trib­uted to higher air­fares.

Find­ings are due in Novem­ber.

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