Six months after the introduction of resident fares in the face of outrage at the cost of air travel to and from western Queensland, the commitment of Qantas to passengers on routes with low growth and seat vacancies in excess of 30 per cent continues to be questioned.
At a recent customer forum in Blackall the unwieldiness of the new resident fare scheme for families with boarding school students was highlighted by the Isolated Children's Parents' Association.
State vice-president Louise Martin described the forum as purely a promotional exercise for Qantas.
"My interpretation of the afternoon was that they were patting themselves on the back and were never going to do anything about our suggestions," she said.
The cost of getting children to and from school is a major issue for families and I felt I was wasting my breath
The need for the port of origin to be in the region the student comes from, meaning that one-way flights from Brisbane can't be booked, continued to have penalties built in, Ms Martin suggested.
"Parents can plan at the start of the year but lots can change in a 10-week term and it costs an arm and a leg to change the booking," she said.
With 1300 boarding students in Queensland, she suggested that Qantas implement a student fare for geographically isolated families.
After travel agents at the forum clarified they could book one-way resident fares, Qantas' national manager for regional sales and development Darren Batty acknowledged that the online process did have the restraint Ms Martin highlighted.
He said he would pass her suggestion on.
Ms Martin said she had heard nothing since, although she acknowledged she hadn't followed it up.
"Our children shouldn't be denied the opportunity to fly, when other options take so long," she said. "Flying isn't a luxury - it's part of a travel solution that other parts of Australia have available as a matter of course."
A month after the forum and despite repeated requests, the Queensland Country Life had not been able to obtain a response to its request for a copy of the presentation made on the afternoon, which Mr Batty said was available for all.
He continued to defend the dynamic pricing structure used by the airline to determine fares, with a powerpoint presentation he agreed was difficult to read.
He told attendees there was marginal growth year-on-year of 1.3pc on the Brisbane-Blackall/Barcaldine-Longreach route and there was an average seat factor of 69pc, with a peak in the July school holidays.
"The cost per seat is 50pc higher than a trunk route, partly because of distance but also the volume of passengers," he said.
He described dynamic pricing as allowing Qantas to offer a range of fares, breaking down all the elements of a regional airfare via the powerpoint display.
Of those, he said the airline could only discount its controllable costs and that discounts amounted to between 20 and 30pc on those.
On the subject of building demand via a promotion conducted in conjunction with Tourism Events Queensland, Mr Batty said they were happy with how the October-November sales had gone, although he had no numbers available.
"It boosted numbers, which is good for the sustainability of the route," he said.
Mr Batty concluded that if they sold all regional fares for an average price, they would sell out and have none available for people with last minute travel plans.
"The expensive ones pay for the cheap ones, that we're losing money on," he said.