The Federal Nationals in Government will provide additional support to help maintain the regional air network as part of the response to the COVID-19 crisis with a $198 million Regional Air Network Assistance Package, bringing the total aviation commitment to $1 billion.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having unforeseen impacts right across Australia and our aviation sector has been critically disrupted as a result of border closures and a significant reduction in patronage and service requirements.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said critical air services were needed now more than ever to connect regional Australia to freight, medical testing, supplies and essential personnel.

“This package guarantees core routes for domestic air freight will remain open and essential workers remain employed, while providing vital financial support for airlines servicing regional and remote locations,” Mr McCormack said.

“More than 100 regional and remote airports received a scheduled passenger service last month and this funding will be welcome news for the aviation workforce and the broader communities these services support.

“The funding will ensure regional communities benefit from an ongoing airline service by underwriting airlines’ operating costs on selected routes.

“These measures are another clear example of our commitment to regional Australia and are part of the Government’s plan to help prevent people from losing their jobs and ensuring regional and remote areas are not left behind in this uncertain climate.

“These new measures build on the $715 million in support already announced for the aviation sector, affirming the Government’s committed to supporting Australia’s aviation industry through this crisis.

“I am speaking with industry executives and representatives daily, making sure they’re receiving the support they need and listening to what else may be required as the COVID-19 pandemic deepens.

“Everything we are doing as a Government in response to COVID-19 is focused on saving lives and livelihoods.”

Presently there are about 12 commercial regional airlines – aside from the Virgin Australia and Qantas groups – which operate regular scheduled passenger services across Australia. While the $198 million to support the network will assist airlines, there are critical standing costs for each airline’s safety function, regulatory compliance and minimum operational capability to be met.

An additional $100 million is available to provide direct financial support to smaller regional airlines during this unprecedented downturn in aviation activity should it be needed.

Airlines, contracted aero-medical providers and a range of other essential service providers can apply for consideration and subject to financial analysis, be eligible for assistance on a month-by-month basis through to 30 September 2020, where there is a demonstrated need.

The Nationals in Government recognise all areas of the aviation industry are feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. While the $100 million package is directed at smaller regional airlines, the Government is continuing to work with the larger stakeholders such as Qantas and Virgin Australia groups and it has already announced industry-wide support through a $715 million package of assistance last week.

Altogether, the Australian Government has now committed more than $1 billion to supporting the sector in recognition of these unprecedented challenges.

Grant guidelines are being finalised and will be available shortly, together with other program documentation, through the GrantConnect website: www.grants.gov.au.