What a rip-off!

January 2, 2016

It’s like the airlines WANT local air services to fail…

What am I talking about? The exorbitant costs of flying between Perth, Western Australia and other locations within Western Australia — exorbitant compared to the costs to fly to the main cities on the east coast of Australia and to Los Angeles. Such charges mean people will choose not to fly to closer destinations and will either drive or not visit at all. And then the airlines will complain that they don’t get enough patronage and will close routes; these tourist destinations will complain that not enough people come to visit to make their industry sustainable; and investors won’t build hotels etc. at these destinations as not enough people go there. It’s a vicious circle.

In yesterday’s West Australian newspaper, Virgin Australia took out a full-page to advertise a fare sale to six destinations — Geraldton and Broome (both within my state); Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane; and Los Angeles. At first glance these fares seem like a good deal, but when you do the math, there’s something decidely dodgy going on.

Based on the fares and the distance to each destination, a one-way flight to Geraldton costs more than ten times the cost of a flight to Los Angeles! The table below shows the approximate distance to each destination; the one-way airfare advertised by Virgin today; my calculation of the cost per kilometre (red is bad, green is similar to the LA cost); what the airfare would cost if it was based on the same per kilometre rate as the LA fare; and what the difference is between the advertised cost and the cost per kilometre for that distance.


If the flights from Perth to Geraldton and Broome reflected the 4c/km of the flights (yes, you have to change planes at Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane) from Perth to Los Angeles, then, at approx $15 and $70 respectively, many more people would be likely to visit those destinations for a holiday, thus injecting huge amounts of money into those economies. If you fly, there’s a good chance you’ll rent a car/use a taxi, spend several nights in accommodation, spend money at restaurants and in shops, visit tourist destinations, etc. If you live in Perth, why would you fly to Broome for $199 (one-way), when you can fly across the continent to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne for $10 less each way? Every time someone in our local tourist industry sees ads like this, they must have moments of quiet desperation and frustration, and must wonder why they stay in the industry when the monetary attraction to travel further afield is so great. (And no, I won’t even mention the fares to Bali from Perth…)

Yes, I know that the real cost of a flight is more than just the cost per kilometre, and that it costs a lot more just to get off the ground and back onto it than it does to be in the air, and that different aircraft have different fixed costs. I don’t know these costs so I haven’t factored them in. But based on the costs that I do know and can calculate, we’re being penalised if we want to fly within our own state.

It just doesn’t make sense.

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