A selective reduction in airfares by Qantas, which will see Mount Isa and Cloncurry residents given access to more affordable air transport from the start of November, has been slammed by Gregory MP, Lachlan Millar.
Mr Millar has been campaigning for lesser airfares for people using the Longreach/Barcaldine/Blackall to Brisbane route for over a year and said he was dismayed to hear the latest Qantas news applied only to Mount Isa-Brisbane and Mount Isa-Townsville/Cloncurry-Townsville route users.
He told Parliament last week it beggared belief why Qantas was happy to run a 12 month trial to give north west Queenslanders some relief from the exorbitant price of air fares, yet Longreach, Barcaldine and Blackall residents were still expected to “max out credit cards and take out personal loans” to cover the cost of flying from Longreach to Brisbane.
“It’s absolute highway robbery,” he said.
According to Qantas domestic CEO, Andrew David, the Mount Isa-Brisbane route was chosen for the fare reduction trial because residents were competing with a very high volume of corporate travel, specifically from the resource industry.
He said the economics of air travel to remote communities like Mount Isa and Cloncurry can be severely impacted by their remoteness, levels of demand and high operating costs.
“We’ve listened to residents in Mount Isa and Cloncurry and understand their concerns on the cost of travel,” said Mr David.
“The reality is that the per kilometre cost on a small aircraft is significantly higher than a larger aircraft that operates between major cities, because the costs are divided by a much higher number of passengers.
“These regional routes don’t have the levels of demand needed to sustain a much larger aircraft and we want to maintain the frequency of services.
“Providing a discount for residents helps to offset some of these forces that can push fares on some flights to levels that become unaffordable.”
Mr Millar said he couldn’t see why the same policy couldn’t be extended to the Longreach/Blackall/Barcaldine-Brisbane route.
“I’m happy to hear of the discount for Mount Isa but given that we are a regulated route and have only one airline that comes in, they can at least give us the same deal.
“The question is, why do we have to be penalised when places like Mount Isa who have competition, get the discount.”
Mr Millar said Qantas had central western airline users over a barrel, and he would continue to work to see that addressed.
He was also annoyed that the August increase in resident fares on the route had dwindled again.
“People were saying, finally we’re getting some affordable airfares, and now we’ve gone back to what we were before.
“They’re not coming up with any clear answers for us.
“There’s one or two residents fares for our areas and you see nine,10 or more for Roma and Charleville. I think that’s unfair.”
Discount trial details
- Varies between 10 and 30 per cent, depending on type of fare purchased. The more flexible the fare, the greater the discount will be.
- For personal travel to individuals who reside in Mount Isa and Cloncurry.
- Available for travel between Mount Isa and both Brisbane and Townsville, and between Cloncurry and Townsville.
- Part of a broader discounted fares scheme announced for residents in six regional WA cities.
- Available on all economy fare classes except for sale fares, for purchase up to and including the day of travel, ie, last minute trips during peak travel times or seasons, traditionally more expensive, will be more accessible for residents.
- Return flights on Qantas need to be booked.
- Discounts only available for personal travel.
- Limited to four return flights a year for each resident.
- Discounted fares scheme will be run as a 12 month trial, during which Qantas will review the uptake and revenue impact.
- Full details, including information on how to book, will be provided in coming weeks.
- Qantas will continue to run regular sales providing low fares for all customers throughout the year.
“We’re optimistic that the discount will stimulate additional demand, which will help us offset some of the cost of the scheme,” Mr David said.
Qantas is also in discussions with regional airports and councils about reducing their airport charges which may enable further savings to be passed on to residents.