Pilbara residents hit with exorbitant prices for flights to Perth

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Pilbara residents hoping for a quick Perth getaway after months of strict socialdistancing measures have been slapped in the face by exorbitant flight prices.
Camera IconPilbara residents hoping for a quick Perth getaway after months of strict socialdistancing measures have been slapped in the face by exorbitant flight prices. Credit: Supplied

Pilbara residents hoping for a quick Perth getaway after months of strict social distancing measures have been slapped in the face by exorbitant flight prices, many of which were similar price to a full service flight to London.

Travellers hoping to fly from Port Hedland to Perth in June would, if intending to fly Virgin Airlines, be slogged around $2000 for a return flight, with Karratha residents only slightly better positioned, a return flight for them costing around $1800.

Qantas services were much cheaper, with a return flight in the same week from Port Hedland costing around $1300, and from Karratha about $1200.

Pregnant Perth woman Nicole Anderson, whose partner works in Port Hedland, said the ridiculous prices meant she was unable to visit her during a difficult time.

“Even though my partner and I had exemptions to travel throughout the border closures, the massive expense and unreliability of flights meant we were unable to risk booking,” she said.

“I’m heavily pregnant, having to move house and all alone, leaving my partner helpless and stuck in Hedland. If an emergency would arrive, I dread to think what we would do, if anything was even possible.

“So many families in northern WA requiring urgent medical treatment in Perth are being forced to drive the huge distances every few weeks because airfares are totally unaffordable. Making flight costs over triple at times is literally financial blackmail.”

The Federal Government released an issues paper in March off the back of an inquiry into the cost of regional flights, supporting a recommendation to review WA financial management of airport assets.

The release also coincided with the WA Government’s draft WA Aviation Strategy.

The State warned it could take a more interventionist approach to airfares if airlines did not keep their prices in check.

Investigating trials which support lower regional airfares and measuring airfares sentiment via community survey were among the draft’s priorities.

The Pilbara Regional Council’s position statement on the cost of Pilbara to Perth flights gives some insight into the reasons for such prices.

“Despite a downturn in the economy due to falling commodity prices, flights between Perth and the Pilbara are regularly run by the airlines at 60 per cent capacity,” the statement said.

“This is due to the distorting effect of fly-in, fly-out workforces, whose travel costs are paid by resource companies who derive a tax incentive from this staffing model.

“The effect of artificially high flight costs renders these half-empty regional flights economically viable for the airlines, despite being inaccessible to residents, tourists and small businesses.”

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