Petitioners voice anger over Pilbara airfares

Shannon BeattiePilbara News
A Qantas plane outside the Karratha Airport.
Camera IconA Qantas plane outside the Karratha Airport. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr

Pilbara residents furious over rocketing airfares to Perth have taken matters into their own hands with one person collecting some 5000 petition signatures in a week.

It comes as the Nationals WA release data showing flights to regional WA are among the most expensive in the world, including Karratha to Perth which sometimes costs $64 per 100km for a journey of about 1500km.

The petition was calling for a one-way ceiling price of $500 to be set by the airlines.

Karratha resident Chris Pickett started the petition, saying there was a general frustration in the region over a lack of activity and reasoning around the cost of fares.

“There’s been a couple of different parliamentary inquires into it, but they achieve nothing,” he said.

“The Federal Senate Inquirymost recently found there was no price gouging going on which was a surprise to pretty much everyone.”

A spokeswoman for the Deputy Prime Minister said the Government was giving careful consideration to a recent Senate Standing Committee report on regional airfares and would respond to the recommendations in due course.

“In the meantime, the Government is undertaking a range of work to assist regional aviation,” she said.

“Including the Enroute Charges Payment Scheme, the Regional Aviation Access Program and the new $100 million Regional Airports Program announced in the 2019-20 Budget.”

Mr Pickett said the inquiries were not enough and airlines had an ethical and moral responsibility to explain current pricing structure.

“At the very least we deserve to know how you can pay $300 one day and the next pay over $1000,” he said.

“Or why you can travel return to LA from Perth for $1200 or from Karratha to Perth one-way for $1000.”

A Qantas spokeswoman said they understood the cost of air travel was a source of frustration for regional communities like the Pilbara.

“The reality is that the costs of operating regional flights are higher than flights between capital cities with many of our regional routes actually running at a loss, and some are close to break-even,” she said.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said high operational costs, combined with lower customer demand, had an impact on economies of scale for regional routes.

“We always encourage our guests to book travel as early as possible to access the cheapest fares available,” she said.

But Mr Pickett said that was a useless solution to many because in a crisis people weren’t able to book in advance.

“Hundreds of people have left comments on the petition about not being able to connect with family and friends in times of need, about not being able to say goodbye to a sick relative or attend a funeral,” he said.

Ultimately, Mr Pickett hopes the petition builds some momentum around the issue and shows those in control that the Pilbara isn’t prepared to wait for a solution.

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