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Airfares drop by up to 40 per cent on Broome to Darwin route nearly a year after Nexus Airlines enters market

Sarah CrawfordThe Kimberley Echo
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Airfares have dropped by up to 40 per cent and flight delays have halved since a second airline started flying the Broome to Darwin route a year ago.
Camera IconAirfares have dropped by up to 40 per cent and flight delays have halved since a second airline started flying the Broome to Darwin route a year ago. Credit: ThePixelman/Pixabay (user ThePixelman)

Airfares have dropped by up to 40 per cent and flight delays have halved since a second airline started flying the Broome to Darwin route a year ago.

However, with flights regularly less than half-full, questions have been raised as to how long the fierce price war between Airnorth and new player Nexus Airlines can last.

The Kimberley Echo has analysed data on airfares and the on-time performance of Airnorth and Nexus Airlines to determine if more competition has made the northern route cheaper and more affordable since the Kununurra-based airline entered the market in late July last year.

Analysis of Google Flights data showed a one-way ticket from Broome to Darwin dropped from $600 in April 2023, when Airnorth was the only regional operator, to as low as $349 a year later, more than nine months after Nexus entered the market.

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That dramatic price drop has been reduced even further thanks to the WA Government’s Affordable Airfares program which is subsidising flights this dry season on the two carriers between Broome and Kununurra to $199 one way.

Meanwhile, delays on the northern route have also reduced dramatically.

According to the website Flightradar24, 30 percent of flights were delayed on the northern route between June and November 2022. That dropped to 17 percent during the same period a year later.

Nexus Airlines chief executive Michael McConachy was happy to take credit for the dramatic improvement in air travel affordability and reliability on the northern route.

Nexus Airlines.
Camera IconA Nexus Airlines plane. Credit: Katya Minns./RegionalHUB

“I think based on what we’ve seen over the 10 years prior to us being here, I absolutely would (take credit) because that’s when we saw a sudden drop in the cost of airfares and a significant improvement in reliability and obviously we have substantially increased capacity,” Mr McConachy said.

He said the airline needed to fill 30 to 50 percent of its seats on each flight to “break even.”

“Certainly we’re getting a number of those services, but not all of them,” he said.

Aviation expert Tony Webber, from Airline Intelligence and Research, said some of the price reductions on the northern route would be the result of increased competition, but a second airline also meant the number of seats had doubled.

“First, you have an airline that has added more seats to the route so prices will go down because you have the same demand chasing more seats, if they want to fill those planes they have to offer lower fares.“

He said when a route with one operator went to two operators, fares generally became 12-15 per cent lower.

However, airfares between Broome and Darwin have dropped well over 30 percent.

An Airnorth spokesperson said the airline had been able to offer lower airfares with the introduction and expansion of their 94-seat E190 Embraer Jet aircraft fleet, which they began flying in 2021.

“Our on-time performance on the Broome to Darwin route has significantly improved due to our dedicated focus on operational efficiency and reliability,” the spokesperson said.

Airnorth said it welcomed more competition on the northern route to give consumers more options and potentially lower airfares.

“We believe that the market has sufficient demand to sustain two airlines, and this competition ultimately enhances the quality of service available to travelers,” an Airnorth spokesperson said.

Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley president David Menzel said a second airline on the northern route had been a “game changer” for travelers.

“No one had considered flying across the Kimberley since COVID because the prices had been ridiculous,” he said.

“It’s actually critical that we retain both airlines, you don’t want to see one airline in a fight, we want to see that both are profitable.”

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