Cheaper air travel could be just the ticket for regional Australia

ENTICING: Cheaper air travel might make regional Australia more attractive to those wanting to leave big cities. Picture: Shutterstock
ENTICING: Cheaper air travel might make regional Australia more attractive to those wanting to leave big cities. Picture: Shutterstock

An aeroplane cleaner is cleaning the cockpit when he discovers a book titled How to Fly a Plane for Beginners - Volume 1. The cleaner gingerly opens the book at page one, which reads: "To start the engine, press the red button."

He does so, and the airplane engine starts. The cleaner is so happy that he quickly turns to the next page which reads: "To get the airplane moving, press the blue button."

The cleaner presses the blue button and, lo and behold, the plane starts moving - and at an amazing speed.

The cleaner, now on a roll, wants to fly so he looks at the next page which says: "To make the airplane fly, press the green button." He presses the green button and the plane starts to fly. He's now very excited.

After a couple of hours of flying around, the cleaner is satisfied and wants to land the plane, so he decides to go to the next page for the necessary instructions.

On the next page, it reads: "To be able to know how to land a plane, please purchase Volume 2."

I don't think you'd want to hear the rest of that story because, believe me, it nosedives.

When I try to bribe and cajole family and friends to visit me in country Australia, these city slickers - most of which can count their visits to rural Australia on the fingers of one hand - begin their excuses.

They usually start by complaining about being time-poor and finish with a wisecrack about my living in the outback among cows and sheep. Well, maybe their arguments are about to become a whole lot weaker.

Rex Airlines has this week started flying between Sydney and Melbourne for the first time.

Rex was launched in 2002 when former Ansett Australia employees acquired Hazelton Airlines and Kendell Airlines, founded by Wagga Wagga's own Don Kendell.

Now, I'm getting no cash for comments here from Rex Airlines or anyone else for expressing my happiness over increased services. Since then, though, I have been musing on more worrying developments.

Other airlines have already dropped their prices and increased their services to regional Australia. Perhaps this is novel enthusiasm after suffering massive losses from the coronavirus. Perhaps history is repeating itself, as it often does.

I understand commercial air travel is not much older than 100 years. Even so, why is air travel in Australia still so expensive?

It's not uncommon for people in Europe to live in one country and work in another, catching the plane to work Monday to Friday. They've been doing this for decades.

True, their populations are much larger, but it is not proportional - especially considering Australia still does not have high-speed rail.

Confucius wisely advised us to "study the past if you would define the future" and Australia has been here before.

In 1990, Australians were offered cheap airfares for the first time via the newly established Compass Airlines.

The then-reigning duopoly of Ansett and Australian Airlines dropped their prices severely for the first time and Australian air travel customers took the bait.

However, by December 1991, Compass Airlines was broke and grounded. The duopoly's prices quickly went back up.

Why should we care? Because millions of Australians live in cities where they claim they feel trapped.

They believe they can only afford a small family in a small house on a small plot of land.

In January, demand for Australian home loans created another record high, even though house prices were rising the quickest in almost 18 years.

In a new global list of the world's least-affordable housing markets included in the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, Sydney and Melbourne were ranked third and sixth respectively.

The Great Australian Dream of home ownership seems likely to be just a dream for many.

However, if living in rural Australia - where land is so much cheaper - became a more viable option for people wanting or needing urban employment, many could reduce their stress.

And Sydney and Melbourne could be taken off that dreadful list.

Twitter: @frbrendanelee

This story Father Brendan Lee | Cheaper air travel could be just the ticket for regional Australia first appeared on The Canberra Times.