Qantas chief Alan Joyce said it was not enough to ask for more disclosure when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had recommended an “independent umpire” to resolve disputes between airports and airlines over charges for aeronautical services.
“The government knows there’s a problem with airports and their profit margins of 50 per cent, but increased monitoring won’t fix it,” Mr Joyce said.
“This is a slightly bigger magnifying glass when what we really need is a way to get some balance back in the system.”
The government changes do not go so far as price regulation because the Productivity Commission found the airports had not “systematically exercised their market power” while passenger numbers have doubled to about 160 million over two decades.
The government decision means the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will gain more information from four major airports it monitors – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – and will use this to provide public reports on their charges.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the decision on Wednesday after several months considering the commission review, which said there was “reason to remain vigilant” about high charges.
The government accepted the proposal for the ACCC to be given more information each year on passenger numbers and the costs and revenues in relation to aeronautical services for domestic and international flights.
The airports will also have to give the competition regulator information on customer numbers, costs and revenues for car parking as well as the utilisation rates for each type of parking.
Airlines for Australia and New Zealand, which has pushed for months to have new curbs placed on the big airports in order to reduce costs for airlines, accused the government of siding with the “monopoly” airport operators and investors.
“There is no other monopoly infrastructure in Australia which is exempt from processes to protect
consumers against the exercise of market power,” the airline group chief executive Alison Roberts said.
Dr Roberts criticised 70 per cent profit margins on parking, $4 fees for trolleys, “outrageously expensive” food and drinks and fee increases of almost 300 per cent on taxis in recent years.
Australian Airports Association chief Caroline Wilkie praised the government response.
“The recommended improvements will ensure the public has a clear view of how the monitored airports are listening to customer feedback and striving to deliver the best possible airport experience,” she said.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.