State Aviation Strategy calls to drive down airfares, connect regional centres

The draft WA Aviation Strategy is open for public comment until March 27. Photo: Rex Airlines.
The draft WA Aviation Strategy is open for public comment until March 27. Photo: Rex Airlines.

A commitment to driving down airfares and connecting regional communities was revealed in the state government's draft WA Aviation Strategy on February 10.

Other key objectives included the need to strengthen airport infrastructure and gather greater data to plan for industry growth.

The actions follow 13 recommendations derived from a parliamentary inquiry into regional airfares in 2018.

The strategy, now open to public comment, addressed persistent calls for more affordable regional air services to improve livability and boost tourism.

Esperance was identified as one of 15 regional towns to receive cheaper airfares in recent years.

Esperance's route continues to be regulated with the state government having awarded a five year tender to Regional Express from 2016.

Rex and the Shire of Esperance entered into an agreement to offer a $139 community fare until February 2021, reducing flight costs for residents to almost a third of the full price of a one-way ticket.

A Rex spokesperson said the community fare continued to increase flight uptake between Perth and Esperance, with about 8000 passengers using the community fare so far this year.

"This represents approximately 26 per cent of all passengers travelling and is slightly more community fare passengers than the same period in the prior financial year," they said.

The strategy noted a key challenge for regional communities was accessing other regional centres by air, with travellers having to fly to Perth to catch a flight to another regional area.

The spokesperson said additional flight paths between Esperance and other regional centres was not off the table and with the current community fare deal set to expire next year, the organisation would discuss a new agreement in late March.

"This is something that Rex would consider for Esperance and Rex will be discussing this with the Shire of Esperance and the Department of Transport," they said.

Shire of Esperance chief executive officer Matthew Scott said the shire would always look forward to having discussions with Rex that would create cost effective air travel for locals and visitors.

A regional aviation and tourism package was also announced, with $8 million allocated towards initiatives to offer more affordable regional airfares on key routes.