Airlines in Australia and New Zealand have formed a lobby group as part of efforts to fight infrastructure constraints, high taxes and other matters of aviation policy.
Air New Zealand, Regional Express (Rex), Qantas and its low-cost unit Jetstar, and Virgin Australia and its LCC Tigerair Australia will be represented in the corridors of power by the newly-established Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ).
Former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Graeme Samuel has been named as the inaugural chair of A4ANZ, which was officially unveiled via a media statement on Thursday.
He will lead a board comprising one representative from each of the member airlines. A chief executive will be appointed “in coming months”, A4ANZ said in a statement.
The chief executives of the four airline groups highlighted airport charges and infrastructure concerns as key issues the A4ANZ would focus on, particularly given the positive impact of tourism and travel on the Australian and New Zealand economies.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said airlines were “constrained by a legacy of under investment and over recovery at key airports”.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce noted airfares had fallen significantly in recent times while airport fees and charges were going up.
“A4ANZ’s goal is to achieve regulatory reform that will promote a competitive and sustainable airline industry in the interests of Australian and New Zealand travellers,” Joyce said.
￼Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti said: “Aviation is one of the greatest enablers of tourism, trade and economic growth in our region, so it’s absolutely critical that airports operate efficiently and that investment in infrastructure benefits travellers.”
From a regional perspective, Rex executive chairman Lim Kim Hai said major airports were “all too ready to sacrifice critical regional interests”.
“Rex looks forward to working with Professor Samuel and the Board to ensure the sustainability of all stakeholders big or small in the aviation industry,” Lim said.
The issue of high airports charges was a feature of the ACCC’s recently published annual Airport Monitoring Report for 2015/16, which found profit margins at Australia’s four major airports – Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – continued to be high.
Further, aeronautical revenue per passenger, a measure the the ACCC described as a “useful proxy measure for average airport prices”, rose at all four airports in 2015/16 compared with the prior year.
The report found airports were “collecting substantially more aeronautical revenue per passenger than a decade ago”, which have been used to cover both increasing costs per passenger and to grow profit margins.
“The ACCC estimates that over the past decade, these airports have collected $1.57 billion more in revenue from airlines than they would otherwise have collected if average prices were held constant in real terms,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
“Despite these much higher revenues per passenger, ratings of service quality are not materially different from those seen a decade ago.”
￼On the New Zealand side of the Tasman, the New Zealand Herald reported in December that gridlock around Auckland Airport led to passengers missing their flights as they were held up in traffic. The congestion also caused airlines to delay flights as fight crews were stuck on the roads leading up to the airport.
Other aviation lobby groups in the region include the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), which Air New Zealand and Qantas were previously members of before leaving in the mid-2000s, and the Association of South Pacific Airlines.