Calls to ’level up’ airline assistance
ROCKHAMPTON business and tourism leader Mary Carroll has called on all tiers of government to “level up” and support two airline carriers who are headed towards technical insolvency.
The boss of Capricorn Enterprise said with COVID-19 grounding 80 per cent of the world’s aircraft, Qantas and Virgin Australia were among the carriers battling for survival.
She said they had suffered enormous losses following the unprecedented drop in domestic air travel and a strong warning must be issued of the dangers of a local landscape in which only one major operator survives.
Ms Carroll said the tourism industry had welcomed the Federal Government’s $715m assistance to the airline industry which included the waiving of taxes and charges.
The Federal Government has also committed to rescuing Australian-owned airline, Qantas, with a $1.05 billion commitment.
But Ms Carroll said it remained “critically vital” that Virgin, despite being a British-founded operator, was also reasonably supported.
“When we get through this COVID crisis, it is critical that both Qantas and Virgin, along with smaller contracted airlines such as Alliance, survive to ensure we keep the air fair, particularly in regional Queensland,” she said.
“In Rockhampton’s case, Alliance is contracted by Virgin to provide their services to and from our local airport.
“Many of us remember the days after the Ansett collapse in September 2001, when return airfares from Rocky to Brisbane prices were exorbitant.
“I remember well when Virgin commenced their flights to Rocky in mid-December 2002, with Richard Branson himself touching down and announcing a launch special of $79 flights to Brisbane for the first three months of operation.
“Political, business and community leaders were there to cheer him on, so now, I think it’s only appropriate for all of us to lobby behind the push for the appropriate government support to keep Virgin afloat until we get to the other side of this crisis.”
Ms Carroll said to steer clear of the post-Ansett days of a Qantas monopoly with foreseen exponential prices hindering local travel, government had to support the airline that added $11 billion per year to the Australian economy.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said the Federal Government’s $1 billion-plus commitment to the aviation industry was a package created in consultation with Australian airline executives among others.
“I understand calls for further support have been made and we will continue to work with industry to make sure they receive the support they need, and that Central Queensland travellers can get the best and cheapest deal to fly,” she said.
Rockhampton Region Mayor Margaret Strelow did not wish to comment on the matters raised by Ms Carroll.
Alliance Airlines, Virgin Australia and Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga were contacted but did not respond by deadline.