Qantas has decided to make their discounted fares program for regional Queenslanders permanent.
Last November Qantas introduced the program as a 12-month trial, and it will now be ongoing.
Eligible residents can continue to access to discounts of 20- 30 per cent off return fares for travel from their local airport.
“In response to community feedback, we’ve also tripled the maximum number of trips that residents can book each year – up from four return trips per resident per year to 12,” a Qantas spokeswoman said.
The announcement comes days after North West Star editor Derek Barry won a major journalism prize for his campaign against the punishingly high cost of airfares for north west residents.
The discount program will now also be offered to residents in Longreach, Blackall and Barcaldine for return travel to Brisbane.
Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said the extension of the program was part of the national carrier’s ongoing efforts to make it easier for residents in remote cities to access more affordable air transport.
“Qantas’ roots in regional Australia run deep. We were founded in outback Queensland almost one hundred years ago and we know we have an important role to play in the regional communities we fly to,” Mr David said.
“We’ve seen a strong uptake from residents taking advantage of the discounted fares. We’ve taken onboard feedback from communities during the trial and have made changes to the program to make it easier to access these discounted fares.
“The reality with regional travel is that the per kilometre cost on a small aircraft is significantly higher than a larger aircraft that operates between major cities, because the costs are divided by a much higher number of passengers,” he said.
“These regional routes don’t have the levels of demand needed to sustain a much larger aircraft and we want to maintain the frequency of services.”
Queensland Airports Limited, which owns and operates Longreach and Mount Isa airports, welcomed Qantas’ commitment to extend the discounted resident fares program.
“We all know regional Queensland is doing it tough, and has been for some time. For many locals in both Mount Isa and Longreach, air travel simply hasn’t been an option due to cost,” Mount Isa airport COO Kevin Gill said.
“Qantas implemented this program in Mount Isa last year, and the fact that the airline has today recommitted to Mount Isa locals by extending the program on an ongoing basis is testament to its success.
“Whilst airport charges are a small percentage of a total fare, we understand every bit counts, and we are playing our part by reducing the airport charges associated with these fares in both Mount Isa and Longreach,” he said.
“We have been calling for reduced airfares in these communities, and we are pleased to support this program.”
More than 6,000 return trips have been booked since the discount fares program launched last November by residents from Broome, Kalgoorlie, Karratha, Paraburdoo, Port Hedland, Newman, Mount Isa, Cloncurry and Moranbah.
The changes to the program are effective immediately and eligible residents can book at qantas.com/residentfares.
To access the discount, residents need to book a return flight on Qantas and be a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program. Qantas is waiving the usual joining fee of $89.50 for residents who aren’t already members.