20 August 2019


SUBJECT: Qantas announce $10 million in bigger discounts for regional Australia

KATIE WOOLF, MIX 104.9: We know that Qantas is promising to cap some airfares for locals living in certain rural and regional remote areas in Australia to hopefully ease the often crippling cost of flying to the outback. We know that there was a Senate Inquiry into the cost of airfares around regional Australia and joining me on the line to talk a little more about this is Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy. Good morning.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, NT SENATOR: Good morning Katie, good morning to all your listeners.

WOOLF: Thanks so much for joining us this morning Malarndirri. You and I have spoken on numerous occasions about the cost of airfares and the fact that they're incredibly expensive in some cases. We know that Qantas has announced today that they're hopefully going to be easing some of that cost to some degree but as I understand it the inquiry ultimately found no airlines were price gouging customers but it seems that what it may have done is made them a bit aware of the impact this is having on those living in regional Australia.

MCCARTHY: And that's a really good thing Katie. I've just been speaking to Qantas this morning to get to the heart of what the offer is to Territorians in particular and they did mention to me that the Inquiry opened their eyes in terms of the evidence that came through and the concerns that people in regional and remote Australia have raised. So theyve gone back to look at the offers that they had on the table and have decided to now put a cap on trips say from Yulara to Darwin or Alice Springs to Darwin will be $400 or $800 return.

WOOLF: Malarndirri now $800 is still fairly expensive but I know in some cases it gets even higher than that so from your perspective, is this a good thing?

MCCARTHY: Look I think what is good here Katie, it's more a good faith thing. I think the airlines really got hit quite hard and not just Qantas but all of the airlines they got hit quite hard in terms of the concerns. And we had a massive campaign just in the Northern Territory with Luke Gosling and Warren Snowdon, where residents had gone on social media giving examples of the real challenges they experience trying to fly from say Nhulunbuy to Darwin or Alice Springs to Darwin or down to Sydney and Melbourne so these were the things that are coming through on social media and I think all the airlines have had to really take stock and have a good look at their relationships with the Australian public.

WOOLF: I think they really need to as well. We whinge a lot about the cost of having to fly anywhere from Darwin, but like you rightly mentioned, if you're flying from Nhulunbuy, Alice Springs and then you look at other parts of Australia, in Queensland and even parts of Western Australia, it is crippling those costs and if you've got family members who live in other states or other areas it becomes almost impossible to see them.

MCCARTHY: There is all that and there is also the other evidence that came through in the Inquiry, which influenced Qantas in this particular example was the ICPA The Isolated Children's Parents' Association and kids getting to school from farms and cattle stations and travelling to boarding school. These were strong issues that came through and also medical visits for people to be able to access Royal Darwin Hospital for access or Alice Springs and vice versa for interstate so there's all these medical plus the education needs of residents that Qantas now sees [and] it's really taken on board.

WOOLF: Well Senator we know the airline has announced it will offer further ticket discounts with a value of up to $10m a year to residents living in 16 towns across Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. Do you think that other airlines might follow suit?

MCCARTHY: It certainly raises the bar for other airlines to have a look at this and see what is their relationship with the Australian public? Can they do something a little bit different to ease the pressure on families and residents in regional and remote Australia. So it certainly sends that signal. In this instance what Qantas is offering is for residents living in Yulara and Alice Springs to have 12 flights a year to Darwin and back at no more than $800.

WOOLF: It's going to be interesting to see how this rolls out and how it impacts Territorians in a positive way but in terms of the whole of northern Australia and regional Australia in general, I hope this is a good thing because Im really passionate about regional Australia as I know you are as well and I do really hope that this makes a difference for people.

MCCARTHY: I hope so too Katie. And if your listeners can continue to let me know if this is working for them, how its working for them and can I just share, there is a portal and one of the things we asked was how do you know if the resident actually lives in Yulara or Alice Springs and is trying to use this system and they said they've opened up a Qantas portal so its and you obviously need to have a Frequent Flyer account so they can check that you're address is linked to Yulara or Alice Springs so that's just a bit of background there for your listeners.

WOOLF: So if people do still have concerns, they can get in contact with you at your office?

MCCARTHY: Always. Im here for you and one of the things Ill always be passionate about ensuring is that our residents can have access to good fares.

WOOLF: Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy, always good to speak with you but I appreciate you taking the time to have a chat with us on this one. As I've said, you and I have spoken on a number of occasions about the cost of airfares and it's good to hear that there is some movement in this space.

MCCARTHY: Thank you