FARE GO: Hope for a decrease in airfares has fallen after a report was released by a senate enquiry.
FARE GO: Hope for a decrease in airfares has fallen after a report was released by a senate enquiry. Mike Knott BUN301116AIRPORT3

Hopes for cheaper flights from Bundy dashed after report

CHECKS yesterday afternoon showed a seat on the cheapest Qantas flight from Bundy to Brisbane tomorrow is $469.

At the same time as people board that 12.55pm flight, people flying between Melbourne and Brisbane will have paid about $200 less for their seat, even though they're flying an extra 1400km.

It's a discrepancy that has infuriated people in the Bundaberg region for years.

But any hopes of pricing changes have been dashed, for the time being at least, following the final report by a senate enquiry that looked into the issue of regional airfare prices.

The Rural and Regional Airfares and Transport References Committee found airfares to regional Australia were among the highest in the world, to the detriment of residents.

The high prices were found to be justified by "economies of scale” and that the cost of aircraft operations had to be distributed across fewer people.

The committee handed down nine recommendations, including one calling for the government to have the Productivity Commission do its own public enquiry.

Another recommendation was to have a financial analysis undertaken on the burden increased security screening would place on regional airports.

The NewsMail yesterday approached Bundaberg Regional Council and Hinkler MP, Keith Pitt to get their thoughts on the report.

Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said the Committee's report "contains no surprises” and urged passengers to purchase their tickets in advance and take advantage of significant cost benefit.

"I had productive discussions with Qantas and Alliance Airlines earlier this year regarding the cost of airfares and potential new services,” Cr Dempsey said.

"I encourage people to support the airlines, because the more people who fly the better chance we have to get lower fares and more services.

"At this stage we're not too concerned about future screening and security costs but we'll talk to the Government if it becomes apparent that air fares are increasing as a result.”

Mr Pitt said the government would now consider the findings, but declined to comment further.

However, Mr Pitt did make a passionate submission on behalf of the region's residents to the Senate Committee inquiry.

"While we have been serviced by QANTASLink for decades, the number of flights, the reliability of those flights and the cost of tickets have raised major issues,” Mr Pitt said in his February 2018 submission.

"The reduction in services is not due to lack of demand for seats as flights are often booked out weeks in advance. Passengers need to plan well in advance to secure a seat.”

In addition, he said the frequent adjustments to the flight schedule were causing delays and forcing passengers to forfeit connecting flight airfares as a result.

"I believe that just because you choose to live or work in a rural or regional centre, or indeed you choose to holiday in a rural or regional centre, you should not have to endure expensive and unreliable air services,” Mr Pitt said.

"I urge you to please consider these issues for the sake of rural and regional communities, the businesses that employ locals and generate economic benefit and the tourists who want to enjoy our natural assets.” Both QANTASlink and Alliance Airlines have recently offered discount flights in the region.

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