ORANGE City Council has defended its passenger tax at Orange Airport after Regional Express (Rex) management accused it of covering written-off debts from Brindabella Airlines.
In a letter to the Central Western Daily Rex network strategy and sales general manager Warrick Lodge responded to councillors’ complaints of high airfares by attacking its $16.73 tax per passenger.
“We are already seeing the direct impact of the misguided policies of council as it raised the head tax by another 5 per cent to make Rex’s passengers pay for the bad debts owed to council by Brindabella Airlines,” he said.
When Brindabella entered receivership in December, it owed $42,682 to the council, which was written off earlier this year.
However, Orange City Council general manager Garry Styles said the write-off had nothing to do with the long-term pattern of CPI increases in the passenger tax.
“The revenue from this tax makes a contribution towards the running costs of operating the airport,” he said.
“The capital costs of the airport expansion are being paid for by state, federal, local government and the private sector.
“These three levels of government and Newcrest recognise the airport expansion as a valuable and viable investment in Orange’s future.”
Mr Lodge said the airline expected further increases once the airport upgrade was complete due to higher maintenance and depreciation costs, however Mr Styles believed the operating costs would be sustainable.
“Rex is listing its airport tax and other surcharges for Dubbo at $21 and they charge a base Dubbo airfare of $86 - for Orange, the surcharges are $23, but they’re charging $121 for the base Orange fare,” he said.
“Air travellers can make up their own minds about what’s going on.”