Standing up for Canberra

The High Price of Flights in Canberra

ABC 666 Radio Canberra 
Breakfast with Adam Shirley


Adam Shirley, Presenter: This from Jeanie on 1300 681 666. As a family of four, we take the bus or drive to Sydney whenever we go on holidays. It’s completely unaffordable to fly out of Canberra. It's often more expensive than the overseas leg. Labor MP for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann. How commonly do you hear this tale? Good morning to you.

Gai Brodtmann, Member for Canberra: Well, I hear it when I’m out and about at mobile offices and coffee catch ups. I've really taken up the campaign since I received a letter from a constituent about a month ago highlighting the high cost of flying from Canberra to Sydney, Canberra to Melbourne, Canberra to Brisbane. So I wrote to the heads of Qantas and Virgin and Jetstar asking them to please explain. I’ve only received a letter from Qantas and it’s pretty much a letter that says "talk to the hand on this". And I’m happy to read it out.

Shirley: I've seen elements of it and it seems to suggest Qantas is doing everything it can and lays the blame at the feet of Canberra Airport. Is that a fair summary?

Brodtmann: They highlighted the fact that it says it’s $23.97 goes directly to Canberra airport - which is by far the most expensive capital city airport in the country. It doesn’t really go into details about why we do have those $300 plus airfares, particularly from Canberra to Sydney. It talks about the fact that there are a number of sale fare offers on regularly and they do have offers for price-sensitive customers as they call them. But it doesn’t really go to the nub of the question as to why so many Canberrans are paying $300 plus to fly from Canberra to Sydney.

Shirley: When you read comments like 'price-sensitive customers should book early. We’ve offered this $99 sale fare', does that give you much comfort that your inquiries are being looked at properly?

Brodtmann: No, it doesn’t. Because the vast majority of Canberrans, and in my own experience is that it's $300 plus to fly from Canberra to Sydney. That’s just unacceptable. When I was in Melbourne just recently I flew to Adelaide, privately, and the airfare from Melbourne to Adelaide is in the order of about $140 and yet here we are all paying 300 plus for that little short leg between Canberra and Sydney.

Shirley: Claire backing this up with another return flight. "A couple of weeks ago three of us had to fly to a family funeral from Canberra to Brisbane at short notice". Claire says "it cost thousands of dollars. The flight was cancelled. We almost missed the funeral". What’s it take to change this scenario, do you think, Ms Gai Brodtmann?

Brodtmann: We just need to keep the pressure on. I’ve started this campaign. I’m going to continue this campaign. Just on cancellations, I started a campaign on cancellations last year. I was very vocal, particularly in parliament, about the fact that at that time in September last year cancellations of flights between Canberra and Sydney topped the nation at 8.1 percent. And in October they reached 6.6 percent. Now the national long-term cancellation rate average is 1.4 percent so we are well and truly above that. And I've just got the readout of cancellations from the weekend and I pity those Canberrans who were trying to have a nice weekend in Sydney or coming back from Sydney to Canberra. There were cancellations of flights on Saturday - the 9:55 am and also the 12:05 pm, and also yesterday there were a number of flights cancelled from Sydney to Canberra and Canberra to Sydney.

Shirley: It’s caught very willingly between Stephen Byron of the Canberra Airport Group and Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, amongst others. How difficult will it be to tease through the blame game and actually get a solution?

Brodtmann: Well, that’s a very good question. That’s a very good question, Adam, and I’m going to continue to work on this. I’ll have conversations with Steven, I do see him when I'm out and about, and I’ll continue to have conversations with him about this. I'm also going to continue to have conversations with the heads of these - Qantas and Virgin and Jetstar - because it is bleedingly obvious that most Canberrans are paying $300 plus for that very short leg between Canberra and Sydney and Sydney and Canberra and it’s causing a significant disadvantage to my community.

Shirley: Gai Brodtmann, we'll stay in touch about whether you get traction and any sort of response in a positive way from the airlines or the airport. Thanks for speaking with us about something you’ve been told about recently and are now going to take up as an issue.

Brodtmann: Thank you very much.

Shirley: Gai Brodtmann is the Member for Canberra. She's not contesting her seat, which will effectively be the seats of Bean at the next election, but she’s listened to a variety of concerns from you and others about the price of flying in and out of Canberra and is now seeking meetings and discussions with those old the reins - and the ticket fares as well.