Would you pay $426 to fly between Port Hedland and Broome?

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph

The potential cost of a new flight service to connect North West towns has been revealed this week with a one-way ticket between Hedland and Broome likely to be an average $426.

The news came as the Town of Port Hedland became the latest local government to consider the proposal, agreeing to take it to the next step.

The Shire of Ashburton rejected the planned service provider’s pitch in August, which requires local authority buy-in, saying it was too costly.

Kununurra-based aviation company Aviair is working on the proposal to set up a Pilbara link flight service travelling between towns including Broome, Port Hedland, Karratha, Onslow, Exmouth, Paraburdoo and Newman, calling it a “game-changer” for the region.

The MOU provided to the Town of Port Hedland ahead of their meeting outlined a nine-seat passenger aircraft would be used for the routes with tickets between Hedland and Karratha costing an average $199.

Passengers flying between Newman and Karratha would fork out an average $399 one way and between Newman and Port Hedland a one-way ticket would set them back $349.

The routes between Karratha and Port Hedland and Port Hedland to Broome would be twice weekly.

If the routes proved successful, the firm said they would look to grow the size of the aircraft used.

After a minor debate about whether ratepayers would use such a service, the Town of Port Hedland council agreed to endorse the non-binding memorandum of understanding at last week’s ordinary council meeting.

The plan is still in an early feasibility stage with the proponent’s MOU claiming the time savings for North west residents other wise forced to drive between towns would be considerable.

The MOU says the 2.5 hour driving time between Karratha and Port Hedland, for example, would be reduced to 0.68 hours with a flight. It also claims the flight would be just $18 more for consumers.

the MOU also estimated the equivalent cost were a large commercial airline to take on the routes would start at $706 between Karratha and Hedland, increasing to $777 to fly the Broome - Port Hedland - Karratha route.

During last week’s Hedland meeting to discuss the proposals, Crs Richard Whitwell and Louise Newberry were against the plans, saying the likely expense for passengers seemed too high for the average ratepayer.

“Are the ratepayers and the community going to use this service?” Cr Newberry asked. “I think not. Look at your Census — there’s more families here now. What family could afford those prices?

“What ratepayer in this town at the moment wants to be financially funding a private enterprise for businesses — and businesses are the only ones that are going to be able to use this service.”

Despite their concerns, Crs Whitwell and Newberry were outvoted.

Concerns over the proposed high price were not exclusive to Town of Port Hedland councillors as acting chief executive of the Shire of Ashburton Dale Stewart quoted the high cost as the reason for the Shire’s rejection of the MoU.

“Without divulging the exact numbers that were talked about, the council took the view that the pricing, even though it was subsidised and the requested subsidy by the local government was in the order of $250,000 per annum for a set term to try to get the service operating — our Shire, 250K per annum,” he said.

“Plus reduced or waived landing fees, so effectively it could have been close to 300K per annum.”

What it could cost passengers (proposed average fare):

  • Karratha - Port Hedland: $199
  • Port Hedland - Broome: $426
  • Karratha - Port Hedland - Broome: $625
  • Karratha - Broome: $625
  • Karratha - Newman: $399
  • Newman - Port Hedland: $349
  • Karratha - Paraburdoo: $360
  • Karratha - Onslow: $249
  • Onslow - Learmonth: $199
  • Karratha - Onslow - Learmonth: $399

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