Federal government has little role in regional air transport

THE Federal Government can do little to ensure flights continue to and from many regional towns, with flights coming down to the "fierce commercial relationship" between regional airports and airlines.

During a Senate hearing on regional flights and airport infrastructure, the secretary of the Department of Regional Development said apart from monitoring prices, the federal government had little role to play.

Many regional airports across New South Wales and Queensland, some operated by local councils, are currently trying to recoup losses from their airports by charging higher fees.

While the Commonwealth sets aside access at major airports for a certain number of flights from regional areas, it leaves talks over flights in and out of such areas up to operators and airlines.

But the regional airline industry, led by Regional Express, have hit out at the recoup costs, with stern letters sent to some councils earlier this year warning they may be forced to leave some markets.

With regional Australians stuck in the middle, department secretary Mike Mrdak said such negotiations generally did not involve the Federal Government.

He said while it was up to airports to waive or increase fees, as part of deals with specific airlines, it mainly came down to the "fierce commercial relationship" as to what was eventually decided on.

Mr Mrdak said the cost of landing charges was also a commercial matter, but that security screening of aircraft over 20,000kg was a national requirement.

He said analysis done under previous governments had "drawn a line" at the 20,000kg mark for screening, but that recouping that cost was up to airport operators.

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