Rex welcomes fare inquiry

Gareth ThomasAlbany Advertiser

Albany-to-Perth air carrier Regional Express says an inquiry into regional airfare prices promised by a WA Labor Government would “shine a light on the real villains” which led to high fares.

A Regional Express (Rex) spokeswoman said regional airfares were condemned to be more expensive than domestic and international fares, with the crosshairs firmly aimed at soaring airport charges.

Last week, Opposition Leader Mark McGowan promised a Parliamentary inquiry into the issue.

The company made no apologies for charging more to fly intrastate than some budget carriers charged to fly internationally. Flights from Perth to Albany on the carrier range from $128-$326, while budget airlines offer return trips from Perth to Bali for similar prices.

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The company said in spite of the relatively high cost of regional airfares, it was still not enough to sustain regional aviation, with 17 regional carriers collapsing over the past 13 years.

The airline provided figures to the Albany Advertiser which highlighted the small margins.

“Even with Rex's efficiencies associated with operating more than 50 aircraft on 75,000 flights per year, Rex’s 2016 financial year operational profit before tax amounted on average to only $4 per passenger flight hour of over 400km, while it spends $185 paying for the cost of flying the same passenger,” the Rex spokeswoman said.

Rex said the total costs specific to WA, including airport charges and ground handling fees, were 130 per cent higher than in other States, which amounted to $35.18 per passenger flight hour more than other States.

Albany MLA Peter Watson said a Parliamentary inquiry was necessary to determine why airlines charged what they did for regional flights, and if airlines could justify their charges, the Government would have to look elsewhere to reduce costs.

He said landing fees, set by local governments, were one charge that could be assessed by the inquiry.

“The Government can’t subsidise airfares,” Mr Watson said.

City of Albany chief executive Andrew Sharpe said running a safe and compliant airport was a very expensive exercise.

“Many factors influence airfares and the fees charged to Rex airlines by the City are just one small contributor, with the fees covering the running costs of the airport including runway, terminal and hangar maintenance and repairs, and staff and security,” he said.

“Council has determined that ratepayers will not subsidise the operation of the airport, and the City works hard to maintain a business model that is financially sustainable.”

He said the City remained committed to working closely with Rex and Government to secure the lowest airfares for the region.

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