Minister applies heat on airlines over regional fares


Queensland's Transport Minister has called the chiefs of regional airlines in to discuss the issue of crippling airfares between places like Mount Isa and Townsville, in a sensational about-turn after years of lobbying from outback residents.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey has ordered in the three airlines that service regional Queensland for a meeting in a bid to discuss the issues and find a "workable solution".

This is in stark contrast to Mr Bailey's stance in June last year, when he doubled down on comments made by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and refused to step in and regulate the Mt Isa to Townsville air-route, saying it was an issue of competition that the airlines needed to fix themselves.

But a meeting in Mt Isa between Mr Bailey, the Premier and residents in November has turned the tide, after the cost of airfares became the "number one" issue raised.

Traeger MP Robbie Katter, who became a licensed pilot to make air travel cheaper by flying himself around his electorate, welcomed the efforts of the State Government in "finally addressing" the issue.

"Time and time again I have pushed back on this issue and on the Government's spiel that 'the market' would sort out the impossibly high prices - it is encouraging now to see there has been some acknowledgment that this is not, and never will be, the case," he said.

Mr Bailey has also asked the Department of Transport and Main Roads to investigate options for a fare price tracking service, similar to that which exists with fuel prices in Queensland.

"If we can find a workable solution, making price information more accessible is a positive step on the longer and more complex journey of seeing downward pressure on prices," he said.

The State Government has maintained that high airfares demand a national conversation and action by the Federal Government.

A Senate inquiry into regional air services last year found it was cheaper to fly return from Sydney to Los Angeles than Cloncurry to Townsville.

The report made nine recommendations, including that the issue be further investigated by the Productivity Commission, to the chagrin of outback residents who remain impacted by high costs.