There was good news this week in the airline industry.
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 continue indefinitely with discounts of 20- 30 per cent off return fares and the maximum number up from four return trips a year to 12.
The discount program will now also be offered to residents in Longreach, Blackall and Barcaldine for return travel to Brisbane.
It seems to be very useful clearing of the decks by Qantas ahead of their likely appearance at the regional air inquiry though strong doubts remain that this inquiry will finish ahead of the federal election.
That doubt increased after the Senate granted a new extension to the inquiry to June 27, 2019 which now puts the likely reporting date after the next federal election, which most people expect to be called around May next year.
As a story in the Weekend Australian on Saturday points out, Senator Barry O’Sullivan, who chairs the Inquiry, would be out of parliament by then but they quote deputy chair Glen Searle saying he would push for it to continue.
As Senator Searle said in his quote “Normally when a federal election is called all Senate inquiries cease and then it is at the behest of the new parliament”.
Senator Searle represents the Labor Party and at this stage it looks likely Labor will win that election with a convincing majority so I hope his words carry some weight.
But even he admits to the Australian “if we haven’t had the opportunity to go through it all we will postpone and find a later date”.
It’s a deep concern as Cloncurry advocate for more equity for regional travellers Hamish Griffin told the Australian.
He put the blame fairly and squarely on the airlines as trying to roadblock at every opportunity.
The politicians are more circumspect saying it was hard to get their own representatives in a room at the same time.
Whoever is right, it is important this inquiry gets to the end of its life.
We need to hear from the airlines about their pricing strategies – Derek Barry