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Perth airport to sue Qantas over unpaid airport fees

Perth airport has launched court action against the Qantas group over around A$11.3 million ($8.1 million) it owes in unpaid aeronautical charges.

The airport says that despite 18 months of negotiations with Qantas, the two parties were unable to reach a new pricing agreement to replace the one that expired on 1 July this year.

Since then, it has invoiced the carrier at the proposed reduced rate, but says that Qantas “unilaterally decided to short pay these invoices by around 40%”, between July and October, amassing a debt of A$11.3 million, which is “not sustainable” for the airport.

“Perth Airport has made numerous attempts to negotiate an outcome with Qantas, but these have failed to resolve the issue,” the airport adds.

It adds that there will be no impact on passengers or the airline’s operations at the airport, but warns that the dispute could have implications for its expansion plans if not resolved.

Qantas claims that the airport's invoices were for higher fees and charges, and its domestic chief executive says that payments are still taking place, "just not at the unjustified rates they have proposed."

"We are willing to pay fair and reasonable charges but want to ensure that our customers are not paying more in airport charges than is absolutely necessary," he adds.

The move follows a dispute between the airport and the airline over the use of a small international facility attached to Qantas’s domestic terminal, which passengers use for the nonstop Perth-London services, and flights to Singapore and Auckland.

Qantas had been pushing the airport to allow it to use the facility to launch seasonal flights to Johannesburg, however it only offered space at the dedicated international Terminal 1.

FlightGlobal schedules show that this month Qantas will operate more than 1,800 flights through Perth airport.

Earlier in the year, Northern Territory Airports – which operates Alice Springs and Darwin International airports – warned that it may sue Qantas over unpaid fees, again related to the failure of the companies to reach new pricing agreement before the expiry of the previous deals.

Qantas has been a vocal supporter of a campaign by Airlines for Australia and New Zealand seeking to change airport pricing agreement negotiations to a “negotiate-arbitrate” basis, to address what it sees as an unfair advantage that airports have in negotiating their agreements.

That would allow an independent umpire, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, to force airports and airlines into arbitration if negotiations fail.

UPDATED: Added comments from Qantas.

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