Mount Isa City Council Mayor Joyce McCulloch has welcomed the announcement of a Senate inquiry into air services for rural, remote and regional Australia.
The Mayor said the cost of air travel was holding back economic progress in regional communities and a detailed examination was overdue.
“The cost of airfares to and from Mount Isa can be astronomical and is clearly a turn-off for people wanting to visit and invest in our region,” Cr McCulloch said.
“We’re all tired of the price gouging by the major airlines and being treated as second-class passengers when it comes to flight scheduling and choice of aircraft.”
Cr McCulloch said the Senate inquiry is an opportunity for people to have their say and push for change.
She said the Triple J One Night Stand concert in April demonstrated the economic impact over-the-top airfares can have.
“The number of people who attended that event was half of what it should have been because of the cost of airfares,” she said.
“Young people who bought tickets to the concert and booked accommodation cancelled when they discovered how much they’d be charged for flights.
“That clearly impacted on local accommodation providers and other Mount Isa businesses who missed out on the income that event should have generated.
“We’re now gearing up for the 60th Mount Isa Rodeo in 2018 and the last thing I want to hear is that rodeo fans can’t afford to fly here for what will be a fantastic and historic event.”
However there are some who believe the council could do more on the issue.
Commenting on the North West Star story about Qantas offering no further fare relief former Deputy Mayor Brett Peterson said Council should talk to Alliance Airlines.
“If it is a 100 seats such as a 717 that Qantas currently uses, surely the council could underwrite a flight and sell the tickets to the residents and business of Mount Isa on a cost neutral basis,” Mr Peterson said. “This could be operated on a twice weekly basis to start of with.”
The Mayor said Council was preparing a submission to the Senate inquiry and encouraged Mount Isa residents to share their views and experiences.
“It’s simply not sustainable or fair for business operators, tourists and local people to continue to pay exorbitant air fares for a second-rate service just because they’re travelling to a regional centre,” she said.
“We need to get to the bottom of why the cost of air travel is so high, why Qantas and Virgin feel the need to charge the way they do, and fix it.
“The cost of flights is a key issue identified in the Mount Isa Economic Development Strategy and one that as a Council we’re determined to resolve.”
The Mount Isa City Council launched a motion at the Australian Local Government Association annual conference in Canberra in June 2017 calling on the Australian Government “to ensure the cost of airfares and transport in remote and rural areas provides economic and affordable access to all residents.”