Finger pointed at landing fees, miners ahead of airfare inquiry

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
A Virgin flight landing at Karratha Airport.
Camera IconA Virgin flight landing at Karratha Airport. Credit: Pilbara News, Tom Zaunmayr

Karratha Airport is slugging airlines some of the highest landing fees in the country, but despite this the final cost per passenger is comparable to the rest of WA, according to the City of Karratha.

A comparison of 20 metropolitan and regional airports across the country by the Pilbara News found Karratha Airport charges more than double that of most regional centres.

Landing fees are one of several airport costs passed on to airlines.

Other fees and charges include security, parking, environmental charges and passenger services.

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While Karratha rates favourably in most of these categories, it charges $42.53 a tonne in landing fees, well above Albany ($26.50), Broome ($23.65) Geraldton ($22.50) and Kalgoorlie ($13.25).

Port Hedland Airport charges $24.56.

VideoSome airlines won't be making as much money on airfares as you think.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said with all fees and charges taken into account, costs of flying into Karratha were comparable to other regional WA airports.

“If (a Boeing 717) aircraft flies into Karratha Airport full, then the aircraft charges per passenger would sit around the $35 mark,” he said.

“If flights currently directed to private airports for mining operations were instead directed to nearby existing facilities, then economies of scale would allow fees per passenger to be lower.

“The City of Karratha runs Karratha Airport at a surplus with these funds returned to the community in the form of improved infrastructure and services.”

Landing fees are a factor in the base price of tickets, while many of the other fees are reflected in the overall price.

Qantas and Virgin have both copped criticism for expensive airfares to the North West, but both have pointed to high landing fees as a factor in the make-up of prices.

Qantas corporate affairs executive manager Andrew McGinnes said the WA market was one of the most expensive to operate in.

“Regional ports have the challenge of economies of scale,” he said.

“Airport charges, along with maintenance costs, fuel and catering costs, are also just some of the examples of our costs that are higher in Western Australia than the national average.

“We know how important accessible air travel is for residents in regional cities like Karratha, which is why, despite these high costs, we run regular sales throughout the year.”

In a submission to a Federal Government inquiry into the effect of red tape on cabotage in April, Qantas claimed it would put at risk the domestic aviation industry.

In its submission, Qantas said cabotage would allow international carriers to cherry-pick key trunk routes from major gateways, pose a significant risk to investment and jobs, and forfeit Australia’s strategic assets.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was open to discussing the merits of deregulating WA air routes while visiting the North West this month.

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