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8 May 2007 012TRS/Budget

The Australian Government will spend $24 million over the next four years ($6 million in 2007-08) to continue subsidising the enroute air traffic control charges paid by more than 35 regional airlines and other operators.

The subsidy makes it possible for small regional airlines to fly to more destinations and makes airfares in regional Australia more affordable.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile, announced the extension of the Enroute Charges Payment Scheme today. It was due to end in June 2007; it will now continue until June 2011.

"The subsidy has a vital role in supporting Australia's regional airlines, which carry more than 2.3 million passengers a year and connect our regions to the major cities," Mr Vaile said.

"The subsidy is one of the reasons that airlines like Regional Express are now expanding onto new regional routes, such as their new services from Sydney to Grafton and from Sydney to Broken Hill.

"The subsidy also helps support aeromedical operators like the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It saves the flying doctors over $1 million per year, which is money they can spend on looking after people in remote areas," Mr Vaile said.

The Government introduced the subsidy in 2002, after the collapse of Ansett left many regional communities without airline services. It expects to spend $6 million on the subsidy in 2006-07.

The subsidy is available to regular public transport (RPT) operators that use aircraft with a maximum take off weight of 15 tonnes or less, such as SAAB340s or Metros, as well as aeromedical operators.

In Western Australia, the subsidy is also available to regular public transport operators that use aircraft between 15 and 21 tonnes maximum takeoff weight and that meet other conditions, because the state's enormous distances require the use of larger aircraft.

Media contact: Tim Langmead 02 6277 7680/0421 584 990