10 July 2015: Text of Motion for Debate as tabled by SODELPA Member and fellow Opposition Member, Hon. Salote Radrodro to review domestic flight costs

Note: The Motion was defeated in favour of the Government side with 17 Opposition Members voting in support of it, 27 Government Members opposing it, and 6 Members of Parliament not voting (absent at the time of the Vote).

View the results of the Vote here.


 

Text of Motion for Debate as tabled by SODELPA Member and fellow Opposition Member, Hon. Salote Radrodro to review domestic flight costs. Please check against delivery.

Madam Speaker,

I rise this morning to move the motion:

“That in view of the need to provide affordable low – cost air transport services to inter island destinations that this House directs the relevant Standing Committee to:
1) Review the current domestic flight business model with a view to reduce flight costs to allow affordable low cost domestic services for the people, and
2) As an alternative, consider introducing a fare subsidy to the provider to supplement reduction in flight costs.

Madam Speaker, May I acknowledge that Government has in place plans to improve the civil aviation industry with the aim of providing safe, reliable and affordable air travel.

Madam Speaker, The intent of this motion is to present our views on what we believe should be done to ensure safe, reliable and affordable air travel within Fiji particularly in the provision of affordable low cost domestic airfares.

Madam Speaker, The Government has said that for the first time ever they have offered subsidy for the Suva – Kadavu route. This is indeed welcomed but may I ask has this really happened?

For, Madam Speaker, I note from the airfare are as follows:
From Nadi – Kadavu = $415
From Suva Kadavu = $212

Madam Speaker, this still seems too high.

Therefore, Madam Speaker, I reiterate the question “has the subsidy been really factored into the current airfares to Kadavu?

Furthermore, Madam Speaker, in relation to the subsidy for Suva Kadavu flight, I query why this route when there is less than 2 flights a week?

Madam Speaker, In contrast, there are more regular flights from Suva to Savusavu, Taveuni, and Labasa with up to 3 or 4 flights in a day. This tells us that there is a high demand for air travel as a preferred transportation mode. Unfortunately, even at this frequency the airfares are still too high.
*Suva – Savusavu = $270 (Nadi – Savusavu = $473)
Suva – Taveuni = $ 380
Suva – Labasa = $292

And so Madam Speaker, it would be more appropriate and sensible to subsidize flight routes for which there is frequent travel.

Madam Speaker I call for the need to offer low cost affordable flights to all routes.

Madam Speaker, we must note that the current service provider has a monopoly on the market for a number of years now. Essentially, profitability levels ought to be hitting breaking even point or attaining normal profit.

Madam Speaker, we must also further note that fuel prices have significantly gone down but the relative downward adjustments to airfares has not happened as should be expected.

In summary, Madam Speaker domestic airfares are still too high.

Madam Speaker, Not diminishing my earlier point and because of the irregular shipping services, the most needful areas for flight services are also the maritime areas like for Lakeba, Vanua Balavu, Cicia, Moala, Ono I Lau and Rotuma. These islands must also be afforded the opportunity for safe reliable and low cost flights.

But Madam Speaker, the flight costs to these islands are extremely high, and beyond the affordability of the common people, for example:
1) Suva to Lakeba: $566
2) Suva to Vanua Balavu: $566
3) Suva to Cicia: $543
4) Suva to Ono I Lau: $811.50
5) Nadi to Rotuma: $1279

Madam Speaker, for urgent medical attention a fisherman definitely can’t afford to pay $566 to fly to Suva but instead has to wait for the boat which comes only once a month…..if at all.

Madam Speaker, for these reasons and more, the people really need low cost airfares, and we need it now.

Therefore Madam Speaker, I urge Government to urgently consider this now – not in 2 years time or 3 years time but NOW.

Madam Speaker, This motion also calls for a review of the current service provider’s business model. In addition to reviewing the fare structure the service provider can also offer other inflight services such as the provision of moist towels and water for all domestic flights because they do not have air conditioning.

Madam Speaker, in addition and given that current service provider has a monopoly on the market they surely can afford to offer product offerings like half price airfares on certain days to low demand destinations. This can also assist tourism development within these islands.

In conclusion Madam Speaker, I beg the house to consider the points I have raised to day and request this motion be taken for consideration by the relevant Standing Committee.

With that Madam Speaker, I commend this motion to the House.

Thank you.