Australians will soon be able to “mail” themselves to more than 50 destinations across the country under a new Australia Post program aimed at reversing its falling profitability.
The scheme, to be called AirMale and AirFemale, will see the ailing postal service partner with a low-cost airline to deliver customers for a one-way fee of just $35 to any airport in Australia serviced by the carrier.
Jetstar, Virgin and Tiger Airways are all believed to be bidding for the partnership.
The controversial initiative comes just weeks after Australia Post revealed a two-tiered pricing scheme for letter deliveries that is expected to see basic stamp prices increase to $1.
That was in response to plummeting profits. In February, Australia Post announced a first-half profit of just $98 million – largely because of losses of $151 million in its letters business.
Australia Post CEO, Ahmed Fahour, said at the time: “The letters business won’t make a profit, and that is not our objective. Our objective is to reduce the losses so that we can support five days a week delivery of mail and secure the future of post offices across the country.”
While those opting for the new AirMale and AirFemale services won’t have to “post” themselves in envelopes or boxes, they will have to fly in the cargo hold of aircraft.
“We already have protocols in place down there to ensure the comfort of animals, so it’s perfectly safe,” an airline source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The New Daily.
Aircraft will require some refurbishment to accommodate passengers. A maximum of six passengers per flight will be carried and for the first time weight will be a consideration, as it is in the letters business. No-one under 18 will be allowed to travel as a “posted” passenger.
“The $35 fare applies up to anyone weighing 70 kilos,” the Australia Post source said. “Above that, you’ll pay a higher rate.”
Final rates haven’t been decided but it’s expected each additional kilo will be charged at $1. This means a person weighing 100 kilos would travel at a full cost of $65.
Final approval for the scheme rests with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. While Australia Post is confident they’ll get the greenlight, they have developed a fallback position that would see “posted” passengers straphanging at the rear of planes.
“Our potential flight partners have done the work and believe if they remove one toilet at the rear of the plane, they could easily accommodate six standing passengers,” the Australia Post source said.
It’s believed a third plan, which would have seen “posted” passengers accommodated in overhead lockers, was rejected because, as the Australia Post source said, “there’s never any unused capacity up there”.
Proponents of the scheme hope to have it operating by April Fool’s Day, 2016.