Regional Express (Rex) has emerged as a big winner from the Queensland government’s latest tender of regulated regional air routes.
Rex has won three new regulated air service contracts, meaning it will operate five regulated routes from January 1 2015, Queensland Transport and Main Roads minister Scott Emerson said on Wednesday.
The airline won the three new routes from regional carrier Skytrans, which will be left with no regulated air service routes when the new contracts commence on January 1 2015.
Rex retained the contract for the Townsville-Winton-Longreach route and the Townsville-Hughenden-Richmond-Julia Creek-Mount Isa route.
It picked up Brisbane-Toowoomba-St George-Cunnamulla-Thargomindah, the Brisbane-Toowoomba-Charleville-Quilpie-Windorah-Birdsville-Bedourie-Boulia-Mount Isa route as well as the Cairns-Normanton-Mornington Island-Burketown-Doomadgee-Mount Isa routes. The three routes are currently being operated by Skytrans.
Rex will service Toowoomba with flights to Australia’s newest airport, Brisbane West Wellcamp, making it the second passenger airline to commit flights to the privately funded and built facility.
QantasLink begins Sydney-Wellcamp services on November 17.
The new routes increase Rex’s route network to 52 destinations, from 36 previously, Rex said in a statement on Wednesday.
Rex general manager of network strategy and sales Warrick Lodge said the airline had almost doubled passenger numbers on its regulated routes since it won the two contracts in February 2010.
Lodge said the airline was keen to hire staff from Skytrans.
“We are also mindful of the potential loss of employment for many staff and agents of the incumbent and we are committed to hiring/keeping as many of the staff and agents as we can,” Lodge said in a statement.
“We will be visiting all 16 new ports during the next two weeks where we will be hoping to have discussions with all affected parties.”
Meanwhile, QantasLink retained two regulated routes.
The first is Brisbane-Roma-Charleville, while the second was Brisbane-Longreach-Barcaldine-Blackall.
QantasLink said it would upgrade services to Roma, Longreach and Blackall to Bombardier Q400 aircraft, while flights to Charleville would be operated by Q300 aircraft.
“Qantas’s history started in outback Queensland in 1920, so we’re delighted that we can continue to serve these important regional communities,” QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said in a statement.
The Queensland government deregulated three routes, with Cairns-Weipa, Cairns-Horn Island and Townsville-Cloncurry-Mount Isa now open to competition.
However, it decided to keep the Roma route regulated, much to the disappointment of Virgin Australia, which had previously expressed interest in bidding but decided not to.
“We believe the Roma-Brisbane route should be deregulated as opening up the route to competition will benefit the travelling public with more flights, better value fares and more choice,” a Virgin spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“After careful deliberation, we chose not to respond to the tender as we do not believe the proposed contract was in the best interests of the travelling public or our company.”
CAPA – Centre for Aviation said in an April 2013 research note that Qantas had increased capacity on the Brisbane-Roma route from 1,700 seats per week in April 2012 to 2,900 seats per week a year later.
Comment was being sought from Skytrans.