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CATO pushes for Open Skies deal to boost capacity and lower fares

Despite overwhelming demand for travel, air capacity into Australia is just over half what it was prior to the pandemic.

Senator Don Farrell (second from left) meets with CATO CEO Brett Jardine, Chair Dennis Bunnik and Vice-Chair Lisa Pagotto.

The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has held discussions with the Australian Government, calling for an Open Skies Agreement to significantly boost air capacity which in turn would put downward pressure on airfares.

Currently, air capacity into Australia is still at 57% of pre-pandemic levels, according to CAPA, with this limit resulting in higher airfares for travellers.

Meeting with Australian Tourism Minister, Senator Don Farrell, in Adelaide, CATO Chief Executive Brett Jardine, Chairman Dennis Bunnik and Vice-Chair Lisa Pagotto proposed the idea of allowing greater access for international airlines into Australia for a period of 12-24 months.

Designed to fast-track the recovery of the local tourism industry, the move would see existing bi-lateral air capacity agreements opened up temporarily to allow significantly increased capacity into Australia.

Speaking to Traveltalk, CATO boss Jardine said the high airfares were also preventing thousands of prospective working holidaymakers from travelling to Australia, which would significantly ease labour shortages throughout the tourism and hospitality industries.

There are over 75,000 working holiday maker visas which have been granted to foreign travellers but which have not yet been activated.

“Our tour operator and wholesaler members are seeing their post-covid recovery curtailed by the severe lack of airline capacity and the resulting high prices being demanded by airlines,” Jardine said.

“The positive impacts of an open skies strategy will be felt throughout the economy.”

Moving to open air capacity would provide a massive boost to the industry, creating jobs, boosting export capacity and addressing labour shortages, Jardine said.

“It’s going to allow more people to come into Australia to fill jobs throughout hospitality and tourism we desperately need but it’s also going to provide the capacity to allow Australians to travel overseas.”

Jardine said the meeting ended very positively with CATO in no doubt the message resonated highly with Senator Farrell.


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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 17 November 2022

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