The ALP has renewed a pledge to deregulate the flight route between Perth and Albany but Skywest claims it will lead to a reduction in services because the route is commercially unsustainable.
“When you can go to Melbourne and return cheaper than you can fly from Perth to Albany, I think its disgusting,” Albany MLA Peter Watson.
“We are a major regional city, we have one airline, what we need is to get more people to Albany.”
The route is currently only serviced by Skywest, who has an exclusive contract, but if Labor wins government it will throw the route open to other carriers.
Mr Watson believes competition will drive prices down and encourage tourists to get off the roads and fly instead.
But Skywest has hit back at the idea, claiming if their monopoly contract was torn up the number of flights would actually go down.
“If you look at what’s just happened on the Exmouth route we have just cut back our jet services to three per week, and there’s the possibility of more cutbacks,” chief executive Jason Bitter said.
“They deregulated a market that’s too small to be deregulated.”
He said deregulation worked in a town like Geraldton because the market was bigger with about 100,000 flights a year, whereas Albany had around 60,000.
Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Graham Harvey rejected Skywest’s argument.
“We have constantly called for the deregulation of flights because competition is the only thing that’s going to drive down prices,” Mr Harvey said.
He said as soon as the Geraldton route was opened up it resulted in increased patronage, and he called for Skywest’s monopoly to cease.
“Either a Labor or Liberal government need to have the political balls to tear up that contract now,” Mr Harvey said.
A Qantas spokeswoman said the carrier would evaluate the route’s potential should Albany be de-regulated.Transport Minister Troy Buswell did not respond to a request for comment.
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