Qantas is offering free flights to regional communities as part of a $A5 million grants package over five years.
The $1 million in annual grants will be available to at least one Australian-based not-for-profit community group, charity individual or organization in each state or territory.
Organizations will need to be providing a direct service or benefit to regional Australia and grants will include a combination of flights, cash and marketing support.
The grants will be awarded each year and determined by a panel according to eligibility criteria.
“Unique to our grants program is the opportunity to access flights which we know are vital to connecting people and communities right across the country,’’ QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said during a visit to regional town Wagga Wagga.
“Whether it’s a health care program wanting to extend their services to a remote town, a local community center that needs funding to improve their facilities or flights for a student or sports group to travel with us to attend a training course in another city, these are the sorts of initiatives our program is designed to support.
The ultimate objective is to enhance the lives of people in regional communities.”
Gissing said he expected the five-year program to help a significant number of people.
“We’ll be looking for applications that can demonstrate measurable impact and innovative ways to benefit regional communities,” he said.
Applications close August 30 and the successful and successful the recipients will be announced in October.
The announcement comes after a recent Senate report into rural air services labeled regional Australia as one of the most expensive areas in the world in which to fly and s recommended a review of domestic airfares.
The report cited a 2017 World Economic Forum report into travel and tourism competitiveness which found Australia to be the 12th most expensive country in which to fly out of 136 ranked.
Qantas says its regional initiatives include $A3 million in drought relief efforts, discounts of up to 30 percent for residents and the Qantas Group Pilot Academy due to open in Toowoomba later this year.
The airline group estimates it contributes more than $5 billion to the economy in regional Australia each year and supports more than 40,000 jobs.