Pilbara resident’s airfares probe grounded

Shannon BeattiePilbara News
Generic Perth Airport pics. Qantas plane.
Camera IconGeneric Perth Airport pics. Qantas plane. Credit: Geoffrey Thomas

A Karratha resident’s quest for answers about the high cost of airfares in the Pilbara has come to a screeching halt after a meeting with Qantas failed to provide answers.

Chris Pickett, who started a 9000-signature petition and a Facebook group with more than 5000 members, met with a senior representative from Qantas late last month and raised eight issues on behalf of residents in the region.

Key points were reasonable prices in emergency situations, maximum limits placed on fares, clarification on anomalies surrounding cost and the possibility of extending the current resident airfare program to include family members flying in to Karratha.

Mr Pickett said he met with senior adviser Graeme Potger and asked for some specifics on each of the issues and if Qantas planned to seriously consider addressing any of them. “The meeting was cordial and I got a good hearing,” he said.

“But unfortunately, I got a very generic response, which made me feel like I was just being fobbed off again.”

A Qantas spokeswoman said it was not reasonable to expect an immediate commitment to the list of concerns, particularly as some were raised for the first time.

“We talked Chris through the discounted fares for residents program, which offers Karratha residents 20-30 per cent off fares,” she said. “While we won’t provide a running commentary of our further considerations, we will let Chris and the community know of any developments.”

Mr Pickett said Qantas kept citing the resident airfares scheme as an overall solution but it was impossible to get the cheapest fares unless people planned ahead, which isn’t always possible.

“People in the Pilbara are sick and tired of this and Qantas just don’t seem to think it’s an urgent issue to deal with,” he said.

“The meeting had to happen or we wouldn’t know the level of interest or care which they have in this issue, but it really just confirmed that they’re hoping it’ll go away.”

Mr Pickett chose to focus on Qantas because it was the “dominant corporate player” in the region, but heading in to the future, he planned to “up the ante” with Virgin as well.

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