Skyrocketing Qantas airfares, axed routes and reduced seating worry the outback town

Skyrocketing airfares and a significant reduction in seats to and from Alice Springs have put the livability of the town and its tourism industry at risk, the state’s peak tourism authority said. region.

Tourism Central Australia (TCA) chief executive Danial Rochford said prices hover around $1,000 each way to major ports, including Darwin.

“We are learning that air fares to and from Alice Springs are at their highest for many years,” Mr Rochford said.

“This is causing great anguish to our tourists, but also to the locals who live here in Alice Springs.”

Mr Rochford said the high cost of airfare made it difficult to attract tourists.

He described the current tourist season as unprecedented, after several years of dismal visitation rates due to the pandemic.

Qantas has blocked the road from Alice Springs to Perth.(Communal room)

“We are currently in a situation where I can see flights from Brisbane to Fiji [are cheaper than to Alice Springs],” Mr. Rochford said.

“I don’t blame a tourist or a potential visitor for thinking, ‘Well, it’s a lot cheaper to go to Fiji. Why go to Central Australia?’.”

Mr Rochford said that because of its remoteness, Central Australia’s tourism industry was highly dependent on visitors being able to fly.

“When we see tariffs like we are now, it certainly makes it very difficult for us,” he said.

“It’s a real kick in the gut.”

Cut services and reduce seats

Earlier this year, Qantas cut the direct flight between Alice Springs and Perth from its offerings.

The airline has also reduced the size of planes on the Alice Springs-Adelaide route from a Boeing 737 to the smaller Embraer 190.

Mr Rochford said the latest move would result in 300 fewer seats in the region per week, with a total loss of 30,000 seats per year.

A man wearing glasses with a blue and white checkered shirt leaning against a wall.
Danial Rochford says he’s seen $600 one-way fares to Adelaide.(Provided by: Danial Rochford)

“Airlines are limiting their capacity and obviously that’s for operational reasons,” he said.

“But it has a net effect on the destination.

Mr Rochford said rising fare prices could be the slippery slope to an eventual scrapping of the route.

“We have certainly seen it with the [now-defunct direct] Perth service,” he said.

“Over the years [Qantas] slowly receded. [It has] increased airfares, and prior to their recent suspension decision, airfares were over $1,500 round trip, which essentially hindered the development of this route. »

Jet plane
Western Australia offers capped rates for residents.(Provided)

Rochford said it’s important to look at what other states are doing to help residents deal with high flight costs.

“If you look on the other side of the fence, in Western Australia, [the state government] set up a grant program for all of its remote communities,” he said.

“So if you are flying from Kununurra, Port Hedland or Broome, you only pay $299 to Perth and that fare is capped. You pay no extra.

“While we have to endure up to $1,000 plus airfare.”

Resident rate a discounted option

A Qantas spokesperson declined to respond to calls for Jetstar to replace the current Qantas service to Alice Springs, but encouraged locals to take advantage of discounts offered from Alice Springs to Darwin through the Resident Fares Scheme .

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