The last piece of the jigsaw in the senate inquiry into regional airfares will fall into place when Qantas give evidence next month.
The final public hearing is scheduled for Darwin on Friday, March 15 and Qantas are the only attendees listed though the parliamentary website has yet to say who will be there on behalf of the airline.
At the most recent hearing in Brisbane on February 15, Inquiry chair Senator Glen Sterle (ALP) reiterated their plan to conclude their report by June 27 despite it being most likely after the date of the next election.
"If an election is called, all our committees, all our inquiries cease and if we're still going the next parliament will present them again," Senator Sterle said.
"And there should be, if we're not finished, no reason that it will not recommence."
Senator Sterle was speaking in answer to a question from Cloncurry resident Hamish Griffin who attended the Brisbane hearing.
Mr Griffin told the inquiry that pricing structures remained high in the region despite some improvements such as Qantas's residents fare scheme.
He told the inquiry he paid $1200 to get to Brisbane having booked a week earlier and while the North West Queensland flood event was in place and roads were closed he had seen Qantas advertise a one-way flight from Mount Isa to Brisbane of $718.
The issue of possible price gouging in flood emergencies also came up in questioning of Virgin airline executives at the Brisbane hearing which gave insights to the company's dynamic pricing.
This was an example last year of a Townsville to Cloncurry flight which jumped from around $600 to $1200 when the Flinders Hwy was closed.
Virgin CEO Rob Sharp said he was aware of the example and said it was an "anomaly" not caused by human intervention.
"There's a perception that we've got people sitting there watching all of these things and we go, 'Yahoo, we can put the price up'," Mr Sharp said.
"There was no-one looking at it, the prices went up because the system automatically says, 'demand is up, so price goes up."
Mr Sharp said the process was driven by algorithms not one of their 15 human staff who do demand forecasting for the entire company.
"Everyone was trying to look at the fares and the more people that went on and looked at them, the more our machine was saying, 'look, there are a lot of people interested in flying'," he said,
"Typically we'll see an anomaly where demand drops off, because no-one is going to book at that price, or we'll end up with some complaints, and that's where we would typically put in a human intervention to say 'why did that occur?'"
Virgin's General Manager Revenue and Network Management, Russell Shaw also told the inquiry residents' fare schemes did not work for them.
"We have run trials in the past with resident fares and found the take-ups to be fairly low," Mr Shaw said.
"As a consequence, our way of tackling the more price sensitive aspects of some of these regional markets is to use our tactical fares and to try to encourage our passengers and our customers to book well ahead of time.
"The closer we get to departure, generally the more those seats are going to become perishable and, therefore, we tend to charge a higher price for them."
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