SYDNEY, March 9 (Reuters) - The biggest airlines in Australia and New Zealand on Thursday said they had formed a new industry advocacy group to combat rising airport fees charged by regional monopolies.
Major airports in the two countries are owned by commercial entities such as Sydney Airport Holdings Ltd and Auckland International Airport Ltd, rather than being government-owned as in the United States and parts of Europe. The Australia and New Zealand governments do not have the ability to regulate fees.
A report this week by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said price rises by Australia's major airports had generated A$1.57 billion ($1.18 billion) in increased revenue from airlines over the last decade.
The lobby group, which includes Qantas Airways Ltd, Air New Zealand Ltd, Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd and Regional Express Holdings Ltd, follows the creation of similar bodies in the United States and Europe.
The group, called Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ), will be chaired by the former head of Australia's competition regulator, Graeme Samuel.
"Airport fees and charges continue to increase while airlines are offering fares at levels significantly cheaper than they were over a decade ago," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said in a statement.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christoper Luxon said airlines' ability to compete was being hampered by a legacy of under investment and over recovery at key airports.
The lobby group would also weigh into issues such as lowering government taxes on passengers and ensuring international market access by rivals was reciprocal, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The Australian Airports Association and NZ Airports Association, which represent their respective countries' airport operators, were not immediately available for comment. ($1 = 1.3294 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Richard Pullin)