Regional Express hopes its ten year birthday party can distract attention from an ugly public relations mauling after an insulting letter it sent to a passenger went public.
In the letter, written in response to complaints of poor service on flights between Sydney and the southern NSW town of Griffith, a Rex employee writes that the airline is “still much better than all the airlines in Australia and most of the airlines in the world” and goes on to ridicule the passenger, prominent Sydney cardiologist Charles Thornburn.
“I would be curious to know if you would reimburse any of your patients who do not get well after seeing you? If you don’t why not?” says the letter, signed by a Rex employee who said he was writing on instruction of the airline’s chief, Singapore based Lim Kim Hai.
The letter goes on to snidely deny Dr. Thornburn’s request for statistics on timeliness. “Perhaps in the medical profession you are used to dispensing information on how long you make your patients wait or how often you misdiagnosed.”
Published by The Area News, a local newspaper, the letter drew a swift and angry response from Griffith leaders, who called on Rex to apologize and trotted out their own stories of poor service by the carrier, the only airline servicing the town. Dr. Thornburn threatened to boycott the airline and end his 20 year relationship with Griffith, where he provides visiting outpatient services.
Nevertheless, Rex told The Area News that it stood by its response.
The generally well-regarded airline did send out a press release touting an upcoming celebration for its ten year anniversary, which rolls around on August 2. The airline said it would give a small gift to all passengers who fly that day. A larger birthday party is scheduled for September 8 at Rex’s Australian Airline Pilot Academy in Wagga Wagga.
Australia’s largest independent regional carrier, Rex was formed by the merger of Hazelton and Kendell following the collapse of Ansett.