Family time, health impacted by high WA airfares

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Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
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VideoThe Economics and Industry standing committee investigating the high costs of regional airfares visited Karratha on Wednesday, August 23.

A committee tasked with inquiring into the sky-high prices of regional WA airfares has heard wide-ranging concerns on its visit to Karratha.

The Economics and Industry standing committee hosted a public forum in Karratha last night, where about 50 people attended to voice their frustrations.

Among the issues raised was the impact high prices were having on medical assistance, including the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme.

Committee chairwoman Jessica Shaw said the inquiry had been told more than $2 million per year was being spent on PATS services in the Pilbara.

Other concerns raised included airlines jacking up prices over school holidays, the quality of aircraft used and the impact the prices have on isolation.

One Roebourne resident was nearly brought to tears as she recounted her heartbreak in only being able to travel to see a friend who had three months to live once because of the cost of airfares.

Among the crowd was City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long, who took aim at the likes of CITIC’s Sino Iron project, where a private runway was allowed to be built.

Mr Long said if mining companies used existing airports in towns, rather than building their own, it would go a long way to reducing the cost of airfares.

He also defended the City of Karratha’s landing fees, stating other fees and charges were on par or lower than other regional airports.

Ms Shaw said the inquiry had heard airport charges only accounted for a small proportion of airfares.

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel said he was confident the inquiry would result in change.

“We are asking for a fair go so the people who live in these remote communities can travel and have some time off,” he said.

Mr Michel said airfares in regional WA should be similar to those of the east coast.

You can read more on this story in the Pilbara News next week.

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