Airport upgrade is a reason to fix fees, not Rex: Gryllis

AERODROME Committee chair, councillor Chris Gryllis will urge his fellow councillors to keep Orange Airport’s passenger fees at $15.95 for another year.

The move comes after the airport’s only passenger carrier Regional Express (Rex) called on all councils to “as a minimum” place a moratorium on airport head tax increases while regional airlines were in crisis.

But Cr Gryllis said the fees should remain the same while the multimillion upgrades continue at the site, not because of Rex’s open letter to all regional councils.

“Once the [airport upgrades] are completed we’ll reconsider the situation,” he said.

“I hope it will be welcomed by the users.”

Councillors overturned a decision to raise passenger fees from $15.95 per person to $16.25 in December and also put off a controversial price hike for other private and business airport users until this year’s budget.

Although Rex’s profits fell by 60 per cent in the first half of this financial year, unlike its national carrier counterparts Qantas and Virgin Australia who reported multimillion dollar losses, it still made a $5 million profit.

But with the carrier’s profits on a downward trend, falling by 45 per cent last financial year, the airline’s general manager Warrick Lodge described the situation as extremely dire for the entire regional aviation industry, in his open letter.

He again accused councils of scooping revenue off airports instead of investing in infrastructure.

OPEN LETTER FROM REX TO COUNCILS: AVIATION INDUSTRY NEEDS YOUR HELP

But Cr Gryllis rejected the suggestion, and said he believed Rex was doing well out of Orange.

“It’s a known fact that airlines are a pretty sensitive and delicate, and financially risky business,” he said.

“Companies will say anything to generate profit for the benefit of shareholders, it’s no secret and there is nothing wrong with that. But in Orange the infrastructure costs a lot of money and our intention is not to get a dividend for the ratepayer.”

Cr Gryllis said the $15.95 fee on each passenger flying in and out of Orange Airport was tacked on to ticket prices and not worn by the airline itself.

Mr Lodge also called on councils to deliberate on other innovative measures to support regional airlines and thanked regional councils who had co-invested with Rex.

Cr Gryllis said the Orange Airport could be further developed into a commercial precinct after the upgrades were finished, which would benefit Rex.

clare.colley@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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