Spare seats a se­cret, in­quiry told

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

Seats on char­tered flights are not be­ing ad­ver­tised to the Onslow pub­lic de­spite planes of­ten fly­ing out half-full, the Par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into re­gional air­fares has heard.

Three weeks of pub­lic hear­ings from stake­hold­ers about the costs of re­gional WA air­fares wrapped up in Perth last week, with find­ings due in Novem­ber.

Virgin flights char­tered by in­dus­try op­er­ate to and from Onslow, and an ar­range­ment ex­ists to ad­ver­tise ex­cess seats to the com­mu­nity.

Shire of Ash­bur­ton act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Dale Ste­wart said the Shire had con­cerns about limited ac­cess to Virgin’s oc­cu­pancy level data.

“Typ­i­cally, they are around 50 to 55 per cent oc­cu­pancy, yet the com­mu­nity does not nec­es­sar­ily have the avail­able num­ber of seats that would equate to be­ing 45 per cent va­cant,” he said.

“Of­ten we are re­stricted to avail­abil­ity, only know­ing whether there are va­cant seats avail­able 24 hours prior.

“Our pref­er­ence would be . . . at least seven days no­tice when our com­mu­nity would be ad­vised of the avail­able num­ber of seats.”

Mr Ste­wart said Chevron had re­cently re-signed the char­ter deal which of­fers $299 flights to Perth with Virgin, for an­other two years.

Onslow Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try chief ex­ec­u­tive Chantelle King told the in­quiry as de­mand for char­tered flights from in­dus­try fell, mea­sures needed to be put in place to en­sure reg­u­lar flights continued. “At the mo­ment on a Thurs­day, there are only five seats avail­able to the pub­lic,” she said.

“If you look on­line for the next two or three weeks, the only day you can fly out of Onslow is a Tues­day.

“I think we need to make more seats avail­able, and if that maybe means that there are only flights four days a week, but there are more seats on those planes, peo­ple can def­i­nitely plan their busi­ness and their ap­point­ments and things around that.”

Ms King said the capped $299 air­fare for Onslow was rea­son­able com­pared with other Pil­bara des­ti­na­tions, though there was still de­bate in the com­mu­nity about whether it should be lower.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Onslow Air­port’s en­trance.

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