Esperance regional airfares debate

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia has confirmed both he and the minister for Transport would be seeking a meeting with regional airline Rex in a bid to address the price of regional airfares.

Following a visit to the Esperance region, Mr Papalia said he was sensitive to the high price of regional airfares right across state and would be working to pursue the issue.

“I do see that, with Esperance being such an attractive destination, anything we can do to drive down the price of airfares would help,” he said.

“With the minister for Transport, I am seeking a meeting with Rex to open discussions and see what might be done to address the price of regional airfares but, at this stage, I can’t say that we’ve got anything sorted but we are looking into it.

“Look, they do have tight margins and they are constrained by aircraft and crew and the costs to keep running them but we are working with the state to try and work with airlines, airports, airport operators and other tourism businesses in an effort to try and get better packages and achieve better outcomes in attracting tourists. 

“We are going to try and pursue it.”

In May of 2016, the Shire of Esperance entered a three year partnership agreement with Regional Express to continue the community fare until June 30, 2020.

The $129.00 fare is currently available between Esperance and Perth for advanced bookings of at least 60 days prior and all available seats within 24 hours of departure.

However, outside of these booking times, a return flight between Perth and Esperance can be upwards of $500.

A Rex spokesperson agreed the cost of regional aviation Regional aviation was inherently more expensive than domestic or international aviation and said it was a result of the poor economies of scale and high operating costs.

“Rex’s operating costs are approximately three times higher on a per seat basis than the larger airlines operating larger jet aircraft,” the spokesperson said.

“However, Rex has demonstrated that it is possible to deliver affordable fare pricing in partnership with the local community through the Shire of Esperance. 

“In the past 12 months we have seen more than 50,000 passengers travelling on the Esperance to Perth route which is a record number.  In the same 12 month period the $129 Rex Community Fare accounted for more than 12,000 passengers, representing a saving to travellers of around $1m per year.

“This is certainly having a positive impact on Tourism in the Esperance region.”

According to the company, January 2018 saw Rex operate the full flight schedule between Esperance and Perth, with more than 25 per cent of passengers travelling on the Rex community fare.