Rex Airlines have announced they will suspend services on the Sydney to Armidale route until ‘at least’ March 30 2024, blaming Qantas for stealing their pilots.
The decision will result in a loss of 23 flights per week (12 from Armidale and 11 from Sydney). The suspension is part of a broader reduction to its regional network serviced by Rex’s
fleet of Saab 340 turboprop aircraft. The routes with a reduced number of services are:
- Sydney-Coffs Harbour
- Sydney-Port Macquarie
Rex will also end the Cairns-Bamaga route in Far North Queensland.
Service reductions on seven other regional routes announced on 21 April, 2023 will continue
for at least another five months as will the suspension of flights between Adelaide and Mildura.
“Unlike other carriers, we prefer to reduce the scheduled services so that our passengers can
be assured of fewer disruptions and more reliable services,” Rex’s General Manager of
Network Strategy, Warrick Lodge, explained.
“We intend to return to the standard flight schedules from 31 March 2024 – however this is
subject to the situation improving,” Mr Lodge added.
Despite blaming their reduction in regional services on Qantas Group and other major carriers for their “continued their relentless pillaging of Rex’s pilot group”, Rex is beginning new services between Adelaide and Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney, and Melbourne and Hobart, utilising the airlines recently acquired larger planes.
The suspension in Armidale’s services also comes just weeks after Armidale Regional Council reorganised the airport so that Rex could operate without security screening. However, Council is buying the ‘lack of pilots’ excuse.
“The simple fact of the matter is that planes don’t fly without pilots,” said Armidale Regional Council Mayor Sam Coupland.
Mr Coupland said Rex has built an excellent reputation on the Armidale to Sydney route over the last nine years and said the service was vital to business, health care, government services and tourism.
“We want Rex back and we at Council will do everything we responsible can to ensure that happens.”
On hearing the news, Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall contacted Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson yesterday to seek an undertaking that the QantasLink fight capacity will be stepped up and fares maintained at current levels on the Armidale to Sydney route.
“I am bitterly disappointed by this news, especially given the enormous amount of support Rex has consistently received from Armidale Regional Council and the travelling public of our region over almost a decade,” Mr Marshall said.
“Having two airlines servicing the Armidale to Sydney route on a daily basis for almost 10 years has been a huge success and resulted in cheaper fares and many more flight options for people across the district than most regional centres in NSW.”
“Demand on this major regional route is such that the 46 one-way flights per week that QantasLink provides (24 from Armidale and 22 from Sydney) will, in my opinion, be insufficient to meet passenger demand,” he said.
“That’s why I have requested the new CEO increase passenger capacity on existing flights or add additional flights, to meet the expected demand.”
Mr Marshall is also concerned that reverting to a monopoly service on the Armidale to Sydney route will see airfares soar.
“It is well known that when QantasLink previously held a monopoly on this route we were faced with unreasonably high fares, in some cases up to $1,200 return,” Mr Marshall said.
“I made it crystal clear to Qantas that price gouging will not be tolerated and that the community expects the usual fares and the Red-e deal special fares to remain at current levels.”
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