Qantas has fronted consumer and governmental criticism for its steep pricing on regional fares during a Darwin Senate inquiry late last week.
The inquiry looked into the operation, regulation, and funding of air route service delivery to regional Australia, over widespread consumer disapproval on the current pricing of country flights.
The ABC reported the results of the hearing were met with heavy scepticism after Qantas blamed airport fees for forcing the airline to vigorously increase the price of regional tickets.
QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said that fares across the domestic market had plummeted over the past 15 years, while regional markets had remained similarly priced.
But Senator Barry O’Sullivan questioned just how much impact the latter was really having.
“From the beginning I’m having a difficulty in, we’re dealing about fares in the thousands of dollars, we’re dealing with airport charges of $30, $40, $50 per passenger,” he said.
The executives provided information showing airport charges and security accounted for 17 per cent of their costs in some area.
The Senate received more than 150 submissions for first-hand experiences from across the country, with various complainants accusing airlines of providing four-figure return flights from regional Australia.
One complainant, Queensland resident Hamish Griffin, collected evidence of Qantas plane tickets between Cloncurry and Brisbane costing more than $1,500 return.
As a response to the huge costs to regional residents, many of the complainants admitted it was cheaper for them to drive thousands of kilometres, for days at a time, instead of fly.
Griffin has been on a crusade to lower plane ticket prices for several years and has attended many of the inquiries so far.
“What would make me happy is if they said, ‘yeah, actually we can do something to make it more affordable’, “Griffin said.