Standing up for Canberra

Fair Fares for Canberra with ABC Radio

JOLENE LAVERTY, HOST: Gai Brodtmann is the Member for Canberra and met with Qantas last night. Hello, Gai Brodtmann.


LAVERTY: Good morning. What happened last night, and what was this meeting about?

BRODTMANN: It was part of a campaign that I’m running at the moment to chase down why airfares, particularly from Sydney to Canberra and Canberra to Sydney, are so expensive. As part of that, I've written to Qantas and Virgin, and I've met with Canberra airport. Qantas replied and the reply that I got back was basically talking about the cost of the airport fees. So I said this is unacceptable I want to know why and what constitute the high prices.

I met with them last night, and the meeting was equable. That said I am concerned about the fact we still don't have clarity around why we don't have a lot of special deals to and from Sydney and Canberra.

The person that I spoke to, the government relations person, spoke about the lead in fare between Canberra and Sydney is $182. That is just one way, and the average price of flights is between $120 and $182. Canberra does not have a premium on these prices in terms of the Canberra to Sydney leg particularly, and Government relation person also advised the profit per passengers is the same as the Sydney to Melbourne or Sydney to Brisbane routes. He constantly underscored the fact the lead in fare prices are $182. We know from experience that is not what Canberrans deal with each day when they try to make a booking between Sydney and Canberra - particularly if it's for an emergency like a funeral or a medical visit.

LAVERTY: What's the lead in fare Gai?

BRODTMANN: That's fare the average fare when evened out. This is my understanding.

LAVERTY: Did you use the word gauging when you were talking to Qantas last night?

BRODTMANN: I did use the word ‘gauging’. I said there was the perception amongst Canberrans that Qantas was gauging, and that we’re being treated as second rates citizens. I made that point in terms of second rate citizens because of the constant cancellations.

We saw a spike of that last year when we were getting cancellation rates at six times the national average. We are still above the national average in July - the Qantas cancellation rate from Canberra to Sydney was 2.5 percent and in Sydney to Canberra was 2.4. The national average was about 2.3 so that's still unacceptable. So I told them “you may have this lead in price, you talk about the special fares available, particularly for  off-pick times, but the perception in Canberra is that you are gauging and that we are been treated as second rates citizens.”

LAVERTY: The response to that is that is actually costa a lot to fly into Canberra airport and that has a lot to do with the price. What role dose the Canberra Airport have to play in all these negotiations?

BRODTMANN: I did meet with Canberra Airport and got their views on the issue and it’s about $23 per passenger. But don't forget, Jolene, what we dealing with here. According to Qantas yesterday, it's about $10 in Sydney so that's one of the reasons they’re saying Canberrans are experiencing these high prices. But we are talking significantly high prices. Most of us have experienced $300 airfares between Canberra and Sydney and most for of us, that is our normal experience. So I say to Qantas - they really do need to look at more special fares, not just in off-peak times. These are great, but, there are also people travelling to Sydney who don't want to pay $300 to $400 one way for business, medical treatments or funerals. So I say to Qantas - we want more of the special airfares and fewer cancellations. 

LAVERTY: This is ABC radio Canberra. My name is Jolene Laverty and I'm joined by Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, who had a meeting last night with Qantas and used the word ''gauging'' in terms of the price of tickets out of Canberra. So, what do you think is behind this?

BRODTMANN: I think we need more competition and just before I go into that, I say to Virgin - I have written to you twice and I still haven't heard from you. So please contact me because I do want to have a conversation about this. Not just with Qantas and not just with Canberra airport, I want to to have a conversation with you, Virgin. In July the cancellation rates were higher from Virgin than they were for Qantas and so, I would like to discuss why the cancellation rates - we talking about 3.8 percent between Canberra and Sydney in July and 3.4 percent again and that in national average I understand is 2.3 percent. So, I want to have a conversation with Virgin. Please get in touch with me because I've written to you twice and I still haven't heard from you as to why the high cost of airfares between Canberra and Sydney, and why these high cancellation rates above the national average.

LAVERTY: God, it's been thrown out there.

BRODTMANN: That's right!

LAVERTY: Kim has sent a text on 0467 922 666. "A guy my husband works with paid $500 for a one-way ticket from Sydney to Canberra last week with Qantas. $500.


LAVERTY: So, let's talk about competition Gai. How do we make that happen?

BRODTMANN: We need more budget airlines coming into Canberra. We've got TigerAir now flying to and from Brisbane about 3 times a week and I understand once a week to and from Melbourne. We need more TigerAir flights and now we need Jetstar in here.

LAVERTY: Thank you very much for your time. Good luck with the good fight.

BRODTMANN: Thanks, I am going to keep it up.

LAVERTY: Well, your leaving your seat and you really don't seem to be slowing down at all.

BRODTMANN: I am not slowing down.

LAVERTY: What are you going to do the day after you leave your seat? Are going to have a nice nap?

BRODTMANN: I don't know, but I am going to continue to fight for Canberra as long as I am the Member for Canberra.

LAVERTY: Thank you. 


LAVERTY: That Gai Brodtmann member for Canberra on ABC Radio.