Inquiry into regional flight costs

The WA government announced it will launch an inquiry in to WA's expensive flight costs.
The WA government announced it will launch an inquiry in to WA's expensive flight costs.

The high cost of regional airfares in WA will be under the microscope after the state government announced it would launch an inquiry into the factors that contribute to the expensive flights.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said the high costs of regional flights in WA was an issue that had afflicted small businesses, tourism operators and people in regional areas for many years. 

The inquiry will be run by the Economics and Industry Standing Committee which will investigate five specific issues surrounding regional airfares and the impact on regional centres.

The final report will also evaluate actions the state government, local governments and regional airlines could take to limit increases to airfares. 

"A parliamentary inquiry has the power to shine a spotlight on this issue, get to the bottom of why these fares are so expensive and give airlines the opportunity to provide solutions," he said.

A Qantas spokesperson said they had been in discussions with regional communities and industry stakeholders in WA for some time about their concerns on pricing. 

The spokesperson said Qantas faced a higher cost base in WA than other parts of the network, including high airport charges in remote WA.

“There are a number of factors that contribute to how airlines determine fare pricing including airport charges for landing and security fees, aircraft type, competitor activity and demand,” the spokesperson said.

“It is not accurate to simply use distance as a factor in the determination of air fare pricing – it has a lot do with economies of scale.” 

Virgin Australia spokesperson said they would work with work with WA’s parliamentary committee on its upcoming inquiry.  

“Airfares on these routes are driven by a combination of factors, including demand, competition, operating costs and airport pricing and taxes,” the spokesperson said.

Shadow Minister for Tourism Libby Mettam said the best way the Tourism Minister could assist with regional airfares was to increase demand by supporting airport infrastructure, supporting events and investing in destination marketing.

Ms Mettam said it was unfortunate the Tourism Minister would not commit to provide any certainty in terms of regional marketing and tourism infrastructure.

“The best first step the Minister could make to address the cost of regional airfares was to increase the demand for these flights and effectively fill the planes,” she said.

“The best way to make intrastate travel cheaper is to increase airline traffic by attracting more tourists to regional destinations.

“Instead we see this Labor Government threatening to cut funds to one of the most exciting airport projects in the state opening up the Busselton and Margaret River Region to Eastern states visitors.”

Ms Mettam said the destination marketing commitment of $425 million over five years remained unfunded by the state government.

This story Inquiry into WA’s expensive airfares first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.