Member for Traeger Rob Katter said there is a very strong argument to good case to consider re-regulation of the Townsville route.
“There needs to be mandatory reporting to government, good hard robust data provided in confidence to government, so they can see how much the airlines are making on these routes,” he said at the Mount Isa airline prices forum on Thursday.
Mr Katter said the Karumba-Cairns and Birdsville milk run routes were regulated with capped prices.
However the route to Townsville and Brisbane is an unregulated route, though the airlines won’t say what their average fares are with some people paying up to $800-900.
“Whereas Longreach, a regulated route of similar distance where the government gets some knowledge of their pricing, the highest fare they can pay is $450,” Mr Katter said. “That’s a huge difference. It’s not a cheap price but I’d be happy knowing that was as much as what I was going to pay to Townsville”.
He said regulation was a state government decision and that government was sitting on a report for six months into regional airline pricing which has not yet been released.
Mr Katter says the impact on life in the North West due to high air fares is wide ranging.
“It affects sporting reps teams in Cloncurry that couldn’t afford to go away or kids going to university or people going to visit loved ones in hospital, or workers and businesses trying to get planes,” Mr Katter said.
“We hear a lot from Qantas about the cheaper seats that become available but my proposition is that the majority of those go to FIFO contractors that don’t live here.”
Mr Katter said the service levels issue was important too saying that the number of breakdowns and fault had increased since Qantas replaced Boeing 737s with smaller 717s on the Mount Isa route a couple of years ago.
“We’ve heard horror stories of service delivery deteriorating – people who have had to wait at the airport for four or five hours, people going overseas and waiting a day for connecting flights or changed aircraft,” he said.
“Now we’ve got the Fokker 100 of Alliance (serving many Virgin and Qantas routes into the North West), aircrafts which don’t have the same quality, while people who travel Cairns to Brisbane get the choice of two hot meals while if you fly Mount Isa to Brisbane you’ll get a ham sandwich if you are lucky.”