Regional fares in spotlight

Michael TraillAlbany Advertiser
Regional Express Airlines at Albany Airport.
Camera IconRegional Express Airlines at Albany Airport. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

An $8 million “incentive” fund has been announced by the State Government to support more affordable airfares to regional centres in WA.

Announced this week, the draft WA Aviation Strategy 2020 revealed without “significant regulation”, communities with low-volume passenger numbers, such as Albany, would not be able to sustain reliable connections to Perth.

Routes with low passenger numbers are put out to tender by the State Government for a fixed-term, typically five years long, to ensure operators on them maintain a monopoly over the market.

Unregulated routes will be focused on as part of the draft strategy.

Connections to Albany, Esperance, Monkey Mia-Carnarvon, Leonora-Laverton, Mt Magnet-Meekatharra-Wiluna and Exmouth are already regulated by government.

The strategy recognises that community access to air services is critical to regional liveability and attracting jobs to the regions.

It also seeks to identify and realise tourism opportunities by drawing more visitors to the State through expanding the air route network.

The 54-page draft strategy released on Monday outlined a blueprint aimed at addressing community concerns about the costs of regional airfares.

In the draft, the State Government warned it would clamp down on rip-off regional airfares if airlines did not keep their prices in check.

According to the report, that could mean ramping up conditions on aircraft licences and regulating additional routes.

The report also came with an $8 million sweetener which will be used by the State Government to broker deals with the airlines.

Those deals would have the State Government plugging key regional routes in return for cheaper airfares.

“The McGowan Government recognises the importance of affordable airfares and air services to Western Australians,” Transport Minister Rita Saffioti, pictured, said.

“We have delivered on our commitment to hold a parliamentary inquiry into regional airfares and have continued to implement actions from the recommendations.

“There has already been some positive progress on airfares since the inquiry. Innovation and collaboration among all stakeholders has led to lower fares for 15 regional towns, along with expansion of new air routes to international, regional WA and east coast destinations.

“While there has been good progress, more needs to be done.”

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