Support for inland flights needs to be on radar: Tyrrell

THE regional aviation industry will battle to ensure government subsidies to support inland flights remain on the radar this election year, Regional Aviation Association chief executive Paul Tyrrell said on Friday.

Mr Tyrrell said since 1984, the number of regional airports with regular services had more than halved, and the number of airlines heading to inland airports had also halved.

He said a small subsidy which supported regional airlines to fly to and from places like Burke in New South Wales was cut in June last year.

Mr Tyrrell said the subsidy, which averaged about $2 a passenger on regional flights, was originally put in place temporarily after Ansett collapsed.

And while the government had always intended on scrapping the program, he said the government also committed in 2009 to introducing a new subsidy.

"The government talks about increases in passenger number to regional airports, but a lot of those places are tourist destinations on the coast, like Cairns," he said.

"That doesn't take into account all the inland places where flights have been taken away - it's those interior towns that need the support - otherwise airlines can't afford to fly there."

Mr Tyrrell said most regional Australians considered regular local flights as an essential service, like water and power, but many areas were not serviced.

He said the issue of supporting regional flights could not be left up to the market, because no company would decide to fly to a place regularly if the company would lose money.

Instead, he said a small subsidy, which could be taken away from other areas, should support regional aviation.

Mr Tyrrell said he would be taking part in the Federal Government's May Budget negotiations in the hope something could be worked out, and that the Coalition had already said they would look at the issue.

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