The announcement by Qantas that its discounted airfare program, trialled in Queensland’s north west since last November, and at Moranbah, will be extended to residents flying out of Blackall, Barcaldine and Longreach airports, has been hailed as a win by the Member for Gregory, Lachlan Millar.
Mr Millar has been a long-time campaigner for better airfares for people living in western Queensland.
“Having access to Qantas’ discounted airfares program would always be a significant win for the west but it is particularly pleasing when sustained drought has crippled local economies and placed air travel out of the reach of many residents,” he said.
“Residents of western Queensland are so remote that driving is out of the question for many, but they must travel to Brisbane for genuine reasons including business, legal, educational and medical reasons, often at very short notice.”
He congratulated Qantas for showing compassion and making a humane decision.
Residents can now access discounts of between 20 and 30 per cent off return fares to Brisbane by booking on-line on a dedicated page.
The new fare discount is in addition to the classic resident fares scheme run in conjunction with the Queensland government, which can be purchased either from the Longreach airport or from local travel agents.
A Qantas spokeswoman said that because there was a limited number of those, if they were sold out, the new scheme gave residents another opportunity for a cheaper fare, via the online booking page.
According to Qantas Domestic CEO, Andrew David, the discounted fares program was part of the national carrier’s ongoing efforts to make it easier for residents in remote cities to access more affordable air transport.
“We’ve listened to residents in regional communities and understand their concerns on the cost of travel,” he said.
“The reality is that the cost of operating a small turboprop between Longreach and Brisbane is significantly higher than a large jet between big population centres, because the costs are divided by fewer passengers.
“These regional routes don’t have the levels of demand needed to sustain a much larger aircraft and we want to maintain the frequency of services.
“Regardless of the reasons, we know the higher relative costs can be frustrating for residents when they need to travel, especially at short notice.”
The cheaper fares have been available for Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Boulia and McKinlay residents flying out of either Cloncurry or Mount Isa to Brisbane or Townsville, for a year now.
Longreach airport owner offers discount
Those flying out of Mount Isa have also benefited from airport owners, Queensland Airports Limited, initiating the same discount level to airport charges to support the program.
QAL has announced it will do the same thing for residents using the scheme and flying out of the other western airport it owns, at Longreach.
Mount Isa and Longreach airport chief operating officer, Kevin Gill, said he was delighted to hear the news of the discount extension.
“We all know regional Queensland is doing it tough, and has been for some time. For many locals in both Mount Isa and Longreach, air travel simply hasn’t been an option due to cost,” he said.
“The fact that Qantas has today recommitted to Mount Isa locals by extending the program on an ongoing basis is testament to its success.
“Whilst airport charges are a small percentage of a total fare, we understand every bit counts, and we are playing our part by reducing the airport charges associated with these fares in both Mount Isa and Longreach.”
Mr Millar concluded his own praise with a parting shot for Queensland’s Transport Minister, Mark Bailey, who he said had refused to allocate any more funding to assist with greater fare discounts.
He noted that the route was regulated by the state government, meaning there was no other airline operating on it providing a competitive fare environment, and which made it eligible for government subsidies.
“At the same time he is happy to allocate $45 million of state transport funding to build bike paths in inner-city Brisbane. It is very disappointing,” he said.
Mr Millar advised residents to still try to book ahead to ensure they got the best possible prices.
- Discounts available for personal travel to individuals who reside in Longreach, Blackall or Barcaldine for return travel to Brisbane
- Up to twelve return trips per year
- Residents need to book a return flight on Qantas and be a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program
- Qantas is waiving the usual joining fee of $89.50 for residents
- Previously, existing classic one-way resident fares in Longreach, Blackall and Barcaldine were only available for booking at the Longreach airport and local travel agents
- They can now be booked online as part of a return fare and combined with Qantas’ discounted fares, provided travel originates from the regional port.
- Discounts vary from between 20-30 per cent, depending on the type of fare purchased. The most flexible (and therefore, higher) the fare, the greater the percentage discount.