Public call for cheaper flights

EYRE Peninsula residents have suggested the two airlines servicing the Port Lincoln Airport should reduce the price of airfares to and from Port Lincoln to help increase passenger numbers. 

Community members voiced their concerns about the cost of airfares after the Lower Eyre Peninsula District Council announced last week it would be developing a promotion strategy for the airport to boost declining passenger numbers. 

Passenger numbers through the airport have been in decline since 2011, with numbers down by about eight per cent in the last two years.

Brenton Walters, who lives in Adelaide but owns a house at the Port Lincoln marina, said he travelled to and from Port Lincoln about every five or six weeks. 

He said the answer to increasing the number of passengers at the Port Lincoln Airport was simple, lower the cost of airfares. 

Mr Walters said the Lower Eyre Peninsula District Council was on the right track opening up a conversation with the airlines.

“A group needs to approach Qantas and Rex to get the prices down,” Mr Walters said.

Mr Walters said if the fare could be reduced to about $100 it would not only be more achievable for people who needed to fly out of necessity but also for visitors.

Lower Eyre Peninsula District Council chief executive Rod Pearson said the council had no role in setting airfares.

“The airlines determine what planes they use, their flight schedule and airfares,” he said.

Mr Pearson said the council charged an $8.80 passenger levy which covered the infrastructure and administration of the airport and it was among the lower levies in the state.

He said as part of the council’s strategy, it would liaise with the airlines to see what could be done in relation to ticket prices. 

Facebook comments responding to last week’s Port Lincoln Times article about the council’s proposed airport strategy overwhelmingly blamed ticket prices for the falling passenger numbers.

More than 100 people commented on the story with the majority suggesting airfares were too high.

However neither Regional Express nor QantasLink responded to Port Lincoln Times’ requests for comment last week about their pricing strategy and if they would consider cutting the cost of fares.

The best value airfare for for Regional Express on March 30 starts at $131.77 up to $413 for a fully flexible ticket; Qantaslink’s best value price on the same date was $141 up to $276 for a more flexible option.

Mr Walters said a cheaper fare would bring more people to Port Lincoln but someone needed to have a conversation with the airlines about what they could do to lower the price.

“Every town in the state with an airport is saying the same thing, that ticket prices are too expensive,” he said. 

He said he did not understand why airlines had tiered ticketing systems when all the seats on the plane were the same. 

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Mr Walters said.

Manda Gordon shared her experience on the Port Lincoln Times Facebook page, saying the best prices for she and her two-year-old to fly earlier this year had cost about $600.

“We used to see specials from both airlines really regularly and with flights not too far in advance of booking dates, for $99, $89 and even $79 each way,” she said. 

She said specials now came out “once in a blue moon” and were usually only as low as $99 and travellers had to be planning a trip “months and months in advance”.