The Western Australia state government has announced the latest successful applicants in its annual Affordable Airfares Program subsidies available to operators flying certain intrastate routes. For the first time, funding is allocated to Nexus Airlines (GD, Kununurra) and Airnorth (Australia) (TL, Darwin), while Qantas and Virgin Australia also secured funding to sell subsidised tickets under the now six-year-old scheme.

An April 30 government statement said that Nexus and Airnorth both received funding to offer AUD199 Australian dollar (USD130) fares on the 1,050-kilometre sector between Broome and Kununurra. The funding period is between May 1 and August 31, 2024, with each airline able to offer 2,440 discounted fares.

The government subsidies will allow Qantas to sell 10,480 fares priced between AUD199 and AUD209 (USD130-136) on the 1,100-kilometre Perth International-Learmonth (Exmouth) route, a funding package that runs between May 1 and December 31, 2024.

Virgin Australia secured funding to offer 13,020 fares priced at AUD219 (USD143) on the 1,680-kilometre sector between Perth and Broome. This period is between May 1 and November 24, 2024, but it specifically excludes one month between mid-June and mid-July, the winter school holiday peak.

The funding announcement also allows Virgin Australia to offer 7,296 fares priced at AUD259 (USD170) on the 2,200 kilometre Perth-Kununurra route between May 1 and October 6, 2024, with no blackout periods.

Aside from a once-weekly refuelling stop by Virgin Australia on its route from Perth to Cocos Islands, Qantas (using its QantasLink brand) is the only operator on Perth-Learmouth. Qantas and Virgin Australia compete on the Perth-Broome route, and Virgin Australia and Airnorth compete on the Perth-Kununurra sector. Both Nexus and Airnorth already fly between Broome and Kununurra.

The Western Australia government says that the Affordable Airfares Program aims to improve the affordability of regional airfares throughout the state and drive visitors to key tourism hubs that heavily depend on air access. "This program builds on existing cost-of-living measures we have implemented, such as the Regional Airfare Zone Cap Scheme, which supports regional residents flying to and from Perth by capping their total airfare amount," explained Transport Minister Rita Saffioti. "That scheme has been very well-subscribed, with over 200,000 discounted airfares now flown since its inception."