Qantas plane
Qantas plane SCOTT POWICK

Qantas boss's answer to Moranbah flights: 'Drive to Rocky'

QANTAS boss Alan Joyce says Moranbah residents should just drive to Mackay or Rockhampton if they want cheap flights.

In a written response to complaints from federal Labor leader Bill Shorten about the exorbitant cost of airfares in regional centres, Mr Joyce said: "Residents in Isaac Regional Council and surrounding regions have options to also fly into and out of Mackay, Rockhampton and Emerald, all of which are in driving distance and have lead-in airfares of $139, $133 and $165 respectively”.

Isaac Region Mayor Anne Baker has hit back at Mr Joyce's comments, saying the communities of her region were "fed up with being treated as second class” by an airline driven only by profit.

"Alan Joyce's comments about Moranbah air services are sadly reflective of an airline that is prepared to exploit rural and regional communities,” Cr Baker said.

"We are simply fed up with being treated as second-class passengers whose only purpose is to generate profits for those at the pointy end of the plane.

"Qantas had its roots in Northern Australia, serving the needs of remote areas, but the 'Spirit of Australia' appears to have turned its back on the bush. In what reality is it reasonable that the cost of a return flight to Brisbane from Moranbah should be on a par with a return flight to Los Angeles?

"It is nothing short of market exploitation and profiteering. And we are not alone, the collective concerns of regional communities have triggered a federal inquiry.

"In markets where there are multiple carriers servicing a route, such as those Mr Joyce identified, fare pricing is demonstrably more competitive,” she said.

"But in markets where Qantaslink can unscrupulously exploit its monopoly it is a different story. We know this because we used to have more competitive pricing when Moranbah was serviced by both Virgin and Qantaslink.

"Council is calling on Moranbah Airport operator BMA to help restore competition by bringing in another airline urgently. Moranbah has had enough of QantasLink and its ridiculous fares.”

Cr Baker said council was also looking forward to having its concerns aired as part of the federal inquiry into regional air services and pricing.

A Qantas spokesman said the airline offered Moranbah residents discounts "of up to 30%” for last minute travel, cheaper seats if booked in advance, and regular sales”.

"We continue to provide a significant number of flights to regions including Moranbah.''