Free Spirit Airlines has announced its plans to increase services to Merimbula despite a proposed rise in passenger landing fees.
This comes after Regional Express (Rex) shared its annoyance at Bega Valley Shire Council about the lack of consultation regarding the 50cent per passenger fee increase.
But, Free Spirit Airlines managing director Roman Badov said the proposed fee change would not affect the airline’s plans to expand services in Merimbula.
“We are not deterred by an increase of 50cents per passenger in fees, especially if this revenue will be used on improvements at the Merimbula Airport,” Mr Badov said.
“Free Spirit Airlines is intending to increase frequency of flight schedules to a daily service between Merimbula and Melbourne by the end of this year.”
In response to Rex’s claims about lack of consultation, Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain said council had encouraged both Rex and Free Spirit to make a submission as part of the public consultation process for council’s draft 2017/18 Fees and Charges.
Despite this, councillor McBain stood by the Passenger Landing Fee change.
“If approved this will be the first fee increase in at least 15 years,” Cr McBain said.
“We understand the value of the air route to the region and the challenges of the airline industry, and we have a long history of supporting Rex and its business on the Far South Coast.
“The proposed increase is in line with CPI and recognises the budgetary pressures Council faces.”
The passenger landing fee is applied to each ticket and is currently $11 at Merimbula Airport for regional passenger transport aircraft. The proposal will see the passenger landing fee increased to $11.50.
Mr Badov said this is significantly less than what Free Spirit Airlines was paying per passenger when they were flying to Burnie Airport in Tasmania which they ceased last month.
“The Burnie Airport passenger fees are $15.60 per passenger, this is in addition to other airport usage charges for operators,” Mr Badov said.
“The Burnie Airport fees were exorbitant, real cost was $25 per passenger in total, once all other airport usage fees were taken into account.
“Merimbula Airport offers a far more affordable operating environment.”