21/01/2009 - 22:00

Positives for airlines

21/01/2009 - 22:00


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AVIATION in Western Australia is not the high flyer it was last year, but commentators say the industry remains in good shape.

AVIATION in Western Australia is not the high flyer it was last year, but commentators say the industry remains in good shape.

Qantas WA regional manager Ian Gay said the weakness of the dollar had made Europe and America more expensive as holiday destinations, with more people preferring to spend their holidays at home.

"Are people going to transfer those travel plans to domestic destinations? I think they will. People still want breaks, they just won't go as far," he said.

Mr Gay said low-cost airlines would benefit from consumers' tendency to reduce spending.

"In difficult times, if the dollar becomes more critical and people become more cautious, they could do quite well," he said.

A drop in passenger numbers was the other side of the coin of a prolonged period of busy flights and higher prices.

"We've spent the last couple of years trying to get capacity up, with the growth of intra-Western Australian flying, with the strength of the east-west market and with the international boom in Asia," Mr Gay said.

"If people have still got their jobs, airfares are coming down, petrol is coming down, interest rates are coming down.

"There are some positives as to why some people might think it's not a bad time to travel."

Qantas has not cut schedules for fly-in, fly-out flights, but it may consider doing so in coming months.

Perth Airport general manager corporate legal affairs, Malcolm Bradshaw, said domestic passenger figures for the financial year were up by 8 per cent, and international figures were up by 4 per cent.

"The resources sector in Western Australia is still strong at this point. We still have, in historical terms, high levels of employment in WA," he said.

But international travel might experience a decline in future as recession talk affected spending, with current tourist travel a consequence of bookings made some time ago.

Mr Bradshaw said growth of low-cost carriers during the past 12 months had been spectacular.

"Low-cost carriers represent a different market segment, and we expect they'll be the source of new growth for international travel in Perth," he said.

Travelscene state manager WA Wayne Callaghan said domestic airfares were currently very competitive.

"Domestic airlines are offering deals that make it particularly attractive to fly across the country," he said.

"They're looking at people who won't spend the big ticket items to Europe and Japan, but they're trying to encourage domestic tourism."

Mr Callaghan said people still wanted their holidays, and that corporate travel would remain steady, while cruising remained popular.

Rio Tinto announced on January 10 it had scrapped plans for a major airport at Tom Price, blowing hopes for a spin-off tourism industry in nearby Karijini National Park

On January 16, Singapore Airlines announced it would temporarily cut flights to Perth, Sydney and Brisbane due to declining numbers.

In the South West, consultants will brief the shires of Busselton and Augusta-Margaret River this week on the viability of an airport in the region.


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