The Federal Government has announced a $198 million Regional Air Network Assistance Package, as an additional response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The package aims to help maintain the regional air network, and brings the Government’s total aviation commitment to $1 billion.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having unforeseen impacts right across Australia and the aviation sector has been critically disrupted as a result of border closures and a significant reduction in patronage and service requirements.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said critical air services are needed now more than ever to connect regional Australia to freight, medical testing, supplies and essential personnel.
“This package guarantees core routes for domestic air freight will remain open and essential workers remain employed, while providing vital financial support for airlines servicing regional and remote locations,” Mr McCormack said.
“More than 100 regional and remote airports received a scheduled passenger service last month and this funding will be welcome news for the aviation workforce and the broader communities these services support.
Mr McCormack said that airlines’ operating costs would be underwritten on selected routes in an effort to ensure that regional communities could benefit from an ongoing airline service.
“These measures are another clear example of our commitment to regional Australia and are part of the Government’s plan to help prevent people from losing their jobs and ensuring regional and remote areas are not left behind in this uncertain climate.
“Everything we are doing as a Government in response to COVID-19 is focused on saving lives and livelihoods.”
Currently there are around 12 commercial regional airlines – aside from the Virgin Australia and Qantas groups – which operate regular scheduled passenger services across Australia.
While the $198 million to support the network will assist airlines, there are critical standing costs for each airline’s safety function, regulatory compliance and minimum operational capability to be met.
An additional $100 million is available to provide direct financial support to smaller regional airlines during this unprecedented downturn in aviation activity should it be needed.
Airlines, contracted aero-medical providers and a range of other essential service providers can apply for consideration and subject to financial analysis, be eligible for assistance on a month-by-month basis through to 30 September 2020, where there is a demonstrated need.
The Government recognises all areas of the aviation industry are feeling the impacts of the current COVID-19 crisis. While the $100 million package is directed at smaller regional airlines, the Government is continuing to work with the larger stakeholders such as Qantas and Virgin Australia groups and it has already announced industry-wide support through a $715 million package of assistance last week.
Altogether, the Australian Government has now committed more than $1 billion to supporting the sector in recognition of these unprecedented challenges.