Government to fund 800,000 half-price tickets to replace JobKeeper

written by Adam Thorn | March 11, 2021
A Jetstar A320, VH-VQK, in Cairns (Gold Coast)

The government will supplement 800,000 half-price airfares for passengers as part of a new $1.2 billion package for the aviation industry when JobKeeper ends.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed details of the new support package that will cover 46,600 discounted fares per week to 13 tourism destinations such as the Gold Coast, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island.

The package of measures will also include cheap loans to small business coming off JobKeeper, wage subsidies for 8,600 international aviation employees and a six-month extension of the ‘RANS’ and ‘DANS’ supplemented routes initiative. The announcement led to a string of reaction from the rest of the industry, including:

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PM Morrison said the cheap tickets would send more tourists to hotels and cafes around the country. “That means more jobs and investment for the tourism and aviation sectors as Australia heads towards winning our fight against COVID-19 and the ­restrictions that have hurt so many businesses.”

The full list of destinations covered by the ticket deal are: the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island), the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula and Kangaroo Island.

The ‘Tourism Aviation ­Network Support scheme’ will run between 1 April and 31 July and be accessed directly through airline websites. It is hoped the deal will encourage airlines to increase their capacity and put more planes in the air.

Other measures include:

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  • A new ‘Aviation Services Assistance Support Program’ for ground handling companies to help pay for mandatory training to keep workforces flight-ready as demand increases;
  • The reinstatement of domestic aviation security screening cost rebates for 50 airports; and
  • An extension of government help for freight.

“This is our ticket to recovery — 800,000 half-price airfares to get Australians travelling and ­supporting tourism operators, businesses, travel agents and airlines who continue to do it tough through COVID-19, while our international borders remain closed,” PM Morrison said.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan added Australians must “do their patriotic duty and book a holiday”.

“Our Government’s support package will help get more Australians into those tourist areas most impacted by border lockdowns, and we need states and territories to do their part by agreeing to a nationally consistent approach to using border closures and lockdowns as a last resort on medical advice.”

The Prime Minister is expected to make a formal announcement on Thursday with more details, but the information was briefed to selected organisations in the industry late on Wednesday night.

JobKeeper payments are set to end nationwide at the end of March, and the government has previously remained tight-lipped as to exactly what support would follow.

Both the TWU and ASU have also conducted surveys showing how reliant the industry still is on the JobKeeper payments.

The former’s survey of more than 900 people revealed just one in 10 workers in the aviation industry are back to full hours and that one in four workers remain stood down from their jobs.

The JobKeeper package was introduced to provide coronavirus-effected business with an initial $1,500 per employee, per fortnight.

Companies are then legally obliged to pass that payment onto workers in a bid to keep the economy active during the pandemic.

However, the scheme has proved problematic for much of the aviation industry.

Many airport workers, such as those at Newcastle, are locked out of the financial package because their firms are council-owned; while staff at dnata were similarly told they were no longer eligible because their company is owned by a foreign government.

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