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Australia: Federal Government launches inquiry into air travel

Australia’s Federal Government has launched another inquiry into air travel to determine the social and economic impact aviation services had on regional Australia.

The latest inquiry comes in the heels of the first one that was tabled in November of last year, after that failed to find out whether airfares were reasonable enough because of a lack of information from carriers.

Critics slammed the said probe after it came up with a plethora of ideas but no real action towards the soaring cost of air travel in regional Western Australia.

Now the Federal Government’s Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport is taking its turn with the goal of properly examining the operation, regulation and funding of regional air services.

Committee member, WA Liberal Senator Slade Brockman, remarked that the Federal inquiry would have better capacity to assess the industry.

“The inquiry conducted by the WA Parliament last year produced a number of interesting findings; however, the recommendations are necessarily limited to areas within the jurisdiction of the State Government,” Brockman said.

“It is particularly important to note that aviation is overwhelmingly regulated at a Federal level and the Senate inquiry will reflect this.

“The purpose of conducting an inquiry such as this is to examine evidence and make informed recommendations to the Parliament and the Government about how best to address these issues,” he added.

A Federal issue that has consistently been mentioned during the State inquiry was cabotage, which is the practice of an international carrier stopping by regional airports en route to their final destination.

Brockman said unless Australian carriers could prove cabotage restrictions were helping air travellers, easing up restrictions should be at least considered.

A Qantas spokeswoman said the approval of resident fares — an initiative providing discounted fares for people residing in the regions — was one of the steps Qantas was taking to address these concerns.

“We’re committed to working with the Government and all stakeholders on providing the services regional Australia needs, and will participate in the inquiry with a focus on the economics of airline operations in regional ports,” she said.

“We’ve seen a positive response (to resident fares) with spikes in residents joining our frequent flyer program since the trial launched late last year.”

Key focus areas for the inquiry

Social and economic impacts of air route supply and airfare pricing.

Different legal, regulatory, policy and pricing frameworks and practices across the Commonwealth, States and Territories.

How airlines determine fare pricing.

The determination of airport charges for landing and security fees, aircraft type and customer demand.

Pricing determination, subsidisation and equity of airfares.

Determination of regulated routes and distribution of residents’ fares across regulated routes.

Airline competition within rural and regional routes.

Consistency of aircraft supply and retrieval of passengers by airlines during aircraft maintenance and breakdown.

All related costs and charges imposed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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