The high cost of regional airfares was put into the spotlight recently following an inquiry by the Commonwealth Government’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee.
It highlighted that it was often cheaper to fly from Brisbane to Singapore than from Brisbane to Cloncurry.
The airlines serving rural and remote communities came under fire for the high cost of airfares. They in turn, pointed out operating on many of these routes was a marginal proposition at best, with high operating costs and few economies of scale.
Airport charges imposed by local councils was also an issue.
Airlines have also introduced subsidised fares for residents living in many rural and remote communities. Regional Express offers subsidised community fares to residents of some 37 rural and remote communities.
Qantas has also been offering a discounted fares program for residents of some rural and remote communities since 2017 and is now expanding their program.
Residents of Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall, Karratha and Kalgoorlie will now pay a maximum of approximately AUD$400 per sector, a fare that remains not insignificant for many people. This cap will apply to fares booked at the last minute or in busy periods.
Qantas is also in discussion with local councils and airports at Moranbah, Roma, Charleville, Broome, Port Hedland, Newman, Paraburdoo, Alice Springs and Yulara.
Airport charges at rural airports (usually operated by the local council) are a significant operating cost for both Qantas and Regional Express.
Qantas has also removed the AUD$99 change fee for bookings made under their discounted fares program.
To be eligible for these fares you need to be enrolled in Qantas Frequent Flyer with a home address in one of the designated communities.
Bookings need to be made through a dedicated Qantas site www.qantas.com/regionalfares. Discounts will be automatically applied when your frequent flyer details are entered into the booking.
While fares to rural and remote communities are high and no doubt irritate the hell out of local residents, the costs of operating these flights need to be acknowledged. Complaining about it won’t erase the realities of these costs. But it’s good to see Qantas acknowledging the issue and developing a program that goes some way to making airfares cheaper.