Qantas, Rex in a war of words

Rex accuses larger rival of throwing its weight around to stifle competition

MR031121 - Rex 737, VH-RYU, pictured on the apron at Seletar Airport, Singapore awaiting scheduled maintenance
(PHOTO: Rex) regional carrier Rex announced on Monday (30 May) it was pulling out of services to five cities and said its rival, flag carrier Qantas, was using its size and resources to stifle competition, a claim Qantas firmly rejected.

Rex said it was pulling services from Bathurst, Grafton, Lismore, Kangaroo Island, and Ballina, adding the flights to those cities will end on 30 June, coinciding with the end of the federal government’s Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) programme, except for the Ballina route, which will terminate on 2 July. Two other New South Wales regional routes are pending further review, Rex said.

John Sharp, Rex’s deputy chairman. (PHOTO: Rex)

Rex’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, said, “Rex has faithfully serviced most of these routes for 20 years and some of them for more than 30 years by Rex’s predecessor Kendell and Hazelton. So it is with a really heavy heart that we have to announce the cessation of services in an effort to improve Rex’s financial performance. Qantas’ well-publicised predatory actions on Rex’s regional routes have meant that Rex no longer has the ability to cross-subsidise these marginal routes. It is unfortunate that these regional communities are the collateral damage of Qantas’ bullying and heartless behaviour,” Sharp said. “This behaviour is all the more unconscionable after receiving over A$2 billion in federal bailouts over the past two years.”

Rex’s remaining regional network will be closely monitored and further adjustments could be announced in the coming months, the airline said. Rex is Australia’s largest independent regional and domestic airline operating a fleet of 60 Saab 340 and 6 Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft to 62 destinations throughout all states in Australia. In addition to the airline Rex, the Rex Group comprises wholly owned subsidiaries Pel-Air Aviation (air freight, aeromedical and charter operator) and the two pilot academies, Australian Airline Pilot Academy in Wagga Wagga and Ballarat.

Qantas, for its part, said “Rex’s standard approach whenever it withdraws from a route is to blame others, usually Qantas”. Qantas said Rex’s decision to withdraw services from the five cities because of competition from Qantas was false, because the larger airline operated on only two of those routes while Rex was the sole operator of the other three. “This is just the latest example of Rex blaming Qantas and others for decisions that by its own admission it has made ‘to look after itself’,” Qantas said.

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