The WA Department of Transport has proposed a new framework for intra-WA turboprop routes which would see a greater number of route licences issued, as well as limited competition on some currently protected routes.
In a presentation to stakeholders on April 9, the Department noted that intra-WA routes were not yet ready to support full deregulation, but that some routes could support competition. As such, the framework proposes that the Perth-Geraldton route be fully opened up to competition, enabling Geraldton to become an aviation hub. The framework also proposes Perth to Learmonth, Albany and Esperance would be opened up for up to two licences.
The proposed changes will also result in the breaking up of the previous Coastal and Goldfields route networks into Northern Goldfields (Perth to Mount Magnet, Leonora, Leinster, Meekatharra and Wiluna), Western Coastal (Perth to Learmonth, Carnarvon, Monkey Mia, Kalbarri, Geraldton) and Kimberley (Broome to Derby, Kununurra and Fitzroy Crossing). These licences would be exclusive, with the exception of Perth-Leinster direct which would be opened up, while the Perth-Derby route, which is currently operated by Strategic Airlines, will remain a protected route. Charter services on the protected routes would be limited to one frequency per week, while all other routes would be unregulated.
The framework is currently open for submissions, ahead of advertising a request for proposals in early May for operations on the licences, which will close in June ahead of new contracts being awarded in August/September. The new system would commence operation in December.
The changes to route licences are likely to result in incumbents Skywest Airlines and Skippers Aviation reducing the number of RPT services they operate. They also face the prospect of increased competition, which could come from Qantas and Virgin Blue, or other smaller operators such as Network Aviation and Maroomba Airlines.