Nats call for intervention on airfares

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Rex has pushed back against any suggestion of lowering flight costs between Albany and Perth.
Camera IconRex has pushed back against any suggestion of lowering flight costs between Albany and Perth. Credit: Albany Advertiser

The WA Nationals have called on the State Government to intervene in fluctuating regional airfare prices, claiming per kilometre the flight costs can JUrival the most expensive in the world.

Nationals WA tourism spokesman Vince Catania claimed flights to Perth from nine regional centres were costing passengers up to $64 per 100km — and $59 per 100km on some days from Albany.

One-way tickets from Albany to Perth on July 13, he said, were only cheaper per kilometre than flights from Karratha to Perth, which allegedly cost $808 one-way.

Mr Catania called on the State Government to impose a subsidy to cut regional flight costs, which he said could cut return flights between Albany and Perth to as low as $200. He said lowering flight costs to Albany would deliver a tourism boost.

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“We need to find a way of subsidising flights (so) that people can make a decision on a Monday and fly to Albany on the weekend,” he said.

“The Government went to the election in 2017 saying they would reduce the cost of flights — clearly that hasn’t occurred.”

Search shows prices fluctuate a lot

But while Mr Catania said those prices were the lowest available on July 13, they were not representative of regular prices.

Though he claimed the cheapest one-way flight from Albany to Perth was $234 on July 13, Albany residents can purchase one-way tickets for $140 through the Regional Express airline Community Airfare.

Those tickets are available for up to a quarter of seats booked more than 60 days ahead of a flight, and for all unsold seats within 24 hours of departure.

Economy class Karratha-Perth flights for other dates, meanwhile, can drop below $270 one-way.

The average one-way Karratha-Perth flight in the first week of July was $479.

WA Labor went to the 2017 State election pledging to cut the cost of regional airfares, which have dropped between Perth, Broome and Exmouth.

However, flights between Perth and Albany increased 7 per cent last year after Rex claimed its low-cost fare had become unexpectedly popular.

Airline rules out cutting flight costs

A Rex spokesperson said ticket prices had been reduced through its Community Airfare.

“The airport charges on a return ticket between Albany and Perth are approximately $110 including GST, so it is not financially viable to place a return ticket at $200 as this would leave $90 for the airline, or $45 each way,” she said.

They said Rex had recorded an 11 per cent sales boost and had increased flights by more than 50 per cent since taking on the route from Virgin Australia Regional Airlines in 2016.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia was contacted for comment.

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