Spare seats a secret, inquiry told
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.
Onslow Airport’s entrance.