Why does the government want to keep airfares high?: Skroo

Kat Stanley Photography; www.katstanleyphotography.com,

News that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will resume its quarterly report into domestic aviation came as a win for the recent senate inquiry into bilateral air service agreements, but the source reason for the inquiry remains unchanged.

The transport minister Catherine King made the controversial decision to block additional capacity for Qatar Airways into Australia with varied and confusing explanations. This has spurred Flight Centre boss, Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner, to ask why the government insists on keeping airfares high.

“The Labor government – their main aim, it seems, is to keep airfares up. That’s the only reason we can see that a legitimate reason that they want to keep airfares more expensive. Perhaps for the benefit of Qantas – I don’t know exactly that,” Skroo told Travel Weekly.

“For some reason, they want to keep airfares expensive into and out of Australia and then that’s the real problem as far as we’re concerned.”

And it’s not just Skroo with the million (or multi-billion) dollar question.

“I think the big message from our industry, and I’m not only talking about ATIA (the Australian Travel Industry Association) or CATO (the Council of Australian Tour Operators), we are just desperate for capacity, absolutely desperate for more capacity,” Skroo added.

ATIA CEO Dean Long and Skroo at the senate inquiry

In August, the Australian Financial Review said it has seen numbers from airline industry sources that detail a cost of between $540-788m in annual economic activity that was lost due to the blocking of Qatar Airways. This figure is based on approximately half the seats being sold to foreign visitors.

When asked if he believes that the government will backflip on its Qatar blocking decision, Skroo told Travel Weekly that he did.

“I think they’ve got to, at some stage whether it’s earlier or later,” he said.

“I suspect they’ll allow Turkish (Airlines) in and Qatar will probably follow pretty quickly. I suspect they’ll say, ‘Put in another application and we’ll consider it’ and they’ll at least give some capacity.

“But it’ll be too late, unfortunately, I think.”

He continued: “If they just explained to us why they want higher airfares… If they could just give us the reason. ‘We want higher airfares because it helps Qantas or it helps some part of the industry’.

“The industry needs to know why they want those higher airfares.”

Skroo previously criticised the blocking to Travel Weekly where he said he had heard that the blocking had come from Anthony Albanese himself, rather than minister King.

“I’ve heard that Catherine – she’s a reasonably competent minister, and I’m almost certain that this was not her decision… It almost certainly came from higher up in the government.”

When asked if he believes the decision came from Albanese himself, Skroo said he’d heard this, but couldn’t confirm it.

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