An extraordinary back-and-forth late last week has highlighted tensions at our regional airport.
In the council’s fees and charges schedule for the coming financial year, an increase in Merimbula Airport’s passenger landing fee of 50 cents – to $11.50 a passenger – was proposed.
Rex has not hidden its annoyance at the proposal, saying the council had failed to consult with Rex on any increased charges and only gave it 24 hours’ notice to make a submission on the draft budget document.
On Thursday it came to a head, with Rex threatening to reduce its service to Merimbula Airport due to what it called “insulting treatment” by council leadership.
In response, the BVSC on Friday issued “an unreserved apology” and backed down from the fee increase.
This was despite the 50 cent rise being, as the BDN understands, the first increase in the airport use charge in 15 years.
“The proposed increase to a passenger landing fee should not have been included in the fees and charges document,” Mayor Kristy McBain said in Friday’s statement.
“We were aware of the error and mistakenly aimed to rectify the issue through a council meeting process, but acknowledge that approach was wrong and we should have communicated the oversight sooner to avoid unnecessary angst.
“I understand the ill feeling this has caused, and the budgetary impact an unexpected increase to fees would have caused to the companies.”
For its part, Free Spirit Airlines said the proposed fee change would not affect its plans to expand services.