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Rex Saab 340. Photo: Regional Express

Australian Airline Rex To Cease Selected Flights

Australian regional airline Regional Express this week announced it will cease multiple flights as it encounters increased costs and competition. The Sydney-Canberra and Melbourne-Albury services will be ceasing on May 30, with others to follow starting June 30.

Rex, as Regional Express is better known, has been facing challenges of increased costs and competition from both Sydney Airport and airline giant Qantas, respectively.

The Sydney-Canberra route was added to Rex’s expanding operations last year, having commenced April 2021. Despite the year-long service adding increased competition to the route, the airline says its operations between Australia’s largest city and its capital are no longer practical.

Speaking of the route, Rex Deputy Chairman, the Honorable John Sharp AM, said: ““Unfortunately with the entrance of an additional operator and the very high charges imposed by Sydney Airport from 1 June 2022 mean that the route is no longer viable for Rex. The resources will be diverted to other routes which will provide a better return.”

Qantas Acting ‘Illegally’

The cessation of operations between Melbourne-Albury, as well as services from regional centres Bathurst, Grafton, Lismore, Kangaroo Island and Ballina, appears to based on more than increased costs alone, with the airline pinning much of the blame on Qantas. In a statement, Sharp said, “This route is the casualty of Qantas’ illegal predatory behavior to drive out competition in a war of attrition, knowing that its competitors do not have the balance sheet to lose money indefinitely.”

Cancellation of flights to these regional centres will commence on June 30, with Ballina to terminate on July 2, coinciding with the end of the Australian government’s Regional Airline Network Support.

The support program, an initiative taken by Federal Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, has been providing basic support to airlines for their continued operation by offsetting losses attributed to the pandemic.

Elaborating on Qantas’ actions, Sharp stated, “Pre-Covid, 22,000 passengers a year flew between Albury and Melbourne, hardly enough passengers for one carrier let alone two,” adding that during the Covid pandemic Qantas entered the route, “dumping an additional 31,000 seats annually into the market.”

The move, according to the airline, is another brick in what Rex sees as an anti-competitive wall. Having operated the route for 39 years, Sharp said: “Sadly for the community, we will soon see Qantas providing only a token service once it sees that it has achieved its objectives”, an opinion shared by many after the recent shortcomings of Qantas.

Last year, Rex commenced legal action against Qantas after Rex raised complaints about “Qantas’ willingness to enter loss-making routes in competition with Rex in an effort to intimidate Rex into not commencing domestic operations.”

Sharp, speaking on the cessation of routes, said, “It is unfortunate that these regional communities are the collateral damage of Qantas’ bullying and heartless behaviour. This behaviour is all the more unconscionable after receiving over $2 billion in Federal bailouts over the past 2 years.”

Rex Partners with Delta Air Lines

Despite the cessation of the two routes, Rex has recently expanded some of its operations, including internationally. The regional airline announced on May 2, 2022, that it had signed a letter of intent to partner with the US carrier Delta Air Lines. The move, which will see a reciprocal ticketing and baggage service between Rex and Delta, is slated to commence in the third quarter of this year.

Rex, which currently offers over 60 Australian routes, will provide a  seamless connection for its passengers bound to the US. From December 18 this year, Delta will increase its flights to a frequency of 10 per week between Sydney and Los Angeles, from which Rex passengers can then seamlessly fly to nearly 50 cities in the US.

The partnership between Rex and Delta will give Rex the edge it needs to compete with what appears to be an increasingly monopolized Australian airline sector. According to Delta’s Vice-President – Alliance Partner Development, Jeff Arinder, Delta Airlines “look forward to welcoming more customers to our flights from Sydney to the U.S. and providing a world-class customer experience in the air and on the ground.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Monday, May 30 with a news release from Rex.

Author

  • Mike Mangano

    Mike’s love affair with flight and mechanical objects in the sky began at an early age, fascinated by space documentaries and forever inspired by his first experiences with Flight Simulator ’95. He currently works as a UAV flight instructor and is training to receive his Private Pilot Licence with the goal of working in manned flight instruction. An avid reader of all things aviation and manned space flight, Mike stays close to developments in aerospace while reminiscing and sharing the rich history of flight with others. He loves writing, engineering and science. https://twitter.com/MikeMangano9

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