AIRPORT: Why are we paying these sky-high prices?

 

IT'S the great airside gouge. A coffee at Brisbane Airport will set you back $5, but travel the short distance to the CBD and the same caffeine hit will cost $4.50.

And if that price gap gives you a headache, then a 10-pack of Panadol Rapid will sting at $8.99 at Brisbane ­Airport, compared with $5.50 in a city supermarket.

A simple 600ml Coke is a thirst-busting $5.20 at the airport and $3.70 in CBD shops.

The huge price differences between goods and services at Brisbane's gateway and in the city has prompted a coalition of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne airport users to beg federal MPs to end the monopoly rule behind the big gouge.

New analysis shows that operators are nickel-and-diming consumers, who are paying 26 per cent more to travel than what they did a decade ago. While airports are flying high on fat profit margins from carparking at terminals, taxi tolls and rents imposed on retailers, massive costs are being passed on to travellers, who are fleeced before they step on to the tarmac.

Airlines and airport operators are at war ahead of the ­release of the Productivity Commission's final report into the regulation of airports, due before October 22.

Brisbane Airport has been accused of price gouging. Picture: Tara Croser.
Brisbane Airport has been accused of price gouging. Picture: Tara Croser.

While Airlines for Australia and New Zealand chairman professor Graeme Samuel is leading the call for reform, the Australian Airports Association (AAA) hit back saying that the Productivity Commission found there is "no case for change" and that airlines' real agenda is to drive up profits at the ­expense of passengers.

"Jetstar charges their customers $5 for a large cup of coffee - do the airlines consider this price gouging?" AAA chief executive Caroline Wilkie said.

"This is not the first time the airlines have used misleading and selective information to hide their true motives," she said.

The Courier-Mail can reveal airport users sent a letter to federal MPs last week urging them to support "sensible" reforms proposed by Australia's consumer watchdog.

These reforms propose to provide access to an independent arbitrator to resolve ­disputes between airports and their users.

"We are seeking your support for Government to call time on the monopoly airports' regime … for the good of Australian consumers and the economy," they wrote.

But they expect the report will ignore the recommendations from the Australian Competition and Consumer watchdog and propose privatised airports remain "without any form of constraint".

Nine of the 10 most expensive airports for car rental are located in Australia and the country also has four of the six most profitable airports in the world, according to Australian Finance Industry Association data. Prof Samuel, who believes a lack of airport competition has led to "anti-competitive" behaviour, said while monopolies are experts in claiming they're looking after the public "they have no commercial incentive to do so".

"The retailers' rents (at the airport) are higher than you will pay at a Westfield shopping centre," he said.

Average revenues per ­passenger have increased by 26 per cent across the country's four major airports over the past decade, according to the ACCC.

It also found that higher charges at Brisbane Airport had led to "significant increases" in aeronautical revenue in 2017-18, rising by 18.4 per cent to $350 million.

"The airport's aeronautical operating profit margin increased by 2.5 percentage points to 49.3 per cent, the highest it has been since monitoring began," the 2017-18 monitoring report stated. Car-parking revenue grew by 5 per cent to $100 million, or about 12.9 per cent of total airport revenue, the report found.

Meg Milwain-Roberts and her eight-year-old daughter Olivia arrived at Sydney airport yesterday on their way to holiday in Noumea and said not everyone could afford to pay the exorbitant parking fees and costs of basic food.

"We are using it as a service ... Why not make it so everyone can benefit and is able to use the services as well?," Ms Milwain-Roberts said. "Some people are financially unable to pay that much, so what, they can't drive to the airport?

"The prices are ridiculous, what do they want us to do? I have got $100 in my wallet just for the airport," she said.

"There is nowhere else to go, there is nothing else, you can't leave. You are trapped with your bags unless you want to leave them in storage, but who is going to do that?"

A Brisbane Airport Corporation spokesperson said individual retailers set their own prices, which were affected by security provisions, higher labour costs due to ­extensive trading hours and having high quality facilities and range.

The spokesperson said that consumers could save money on parking by booking in advance and online.