(Australian Associated Press)
Australians living in regional and remote towns will be offered discount airfares to capital cities under a plan by Qantas to start in some places immediately.
The airline will invest up to $10 million a year in providing flight discounts for residents in 16 towns across Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Currently, Qantas provides residents flying between their home town and the nearest capital city with discounts of at least 20 to 30 per cent – with discounted fares starting at $175 to $325 per sector when booking return journeys.
These discounts will remain but bigger discounts will now apply to fares booked during busy periods and at the last minute.
This will mean the maximum residents will pay will be $400 per sector when booking return journeys or $800 return.
The program will start immediately in the Queensland towns of Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Longreach, Barcaldine and Blackall as well as the WA towns of Karratha and Kalgoorlie.
Regional airports and councils in these towns have committed to reducing the fees they charge each passenger, which are built into airfares.
Qantas is also negotiating fee reductions at Moranbah, Roma and Charleville (Queensland), Broome, Port Hedland, Newman and Paraburdoo (WA) and Alice Springs and Yulara (NT).
A recent Senate inquiry raised concerns about the impact of airport charges on the price of airfares.
Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said many travellers were not using the airline’s dedicated resident fare website and were paying more than they should.
“The existing discount program is proving to be extremely popular,” he said.
“But some residents have told us that when they need to travel during peak travel periods or at the last minute, for things like funerals or urgent medical appointments, they end up booking our highest fares and paying more or they don’t travel.”
“That’s why we are introducing bigger discounts to these bookings.”