Regional Express (Rex) says administrators are standing in the way of it starting stopgap flights to communities in Cape York affected by the sudden shut down of North Queensland-based Skytrans.
Rex said on Friday it had sought to use a Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) mechanism to start stopgap flights with the emergency “charter substitution arrangement” within a week of the shutdown, with occurred on Friday January 2.
However, Rex general manager of network strategy Warrick Lodge said Skytrans administrators, Bentleys Chartered Accountants, had refused to sign off on the move.
“The Charter Substitution Arrangement requires a sign-off by the Skytrans Administrator as a formality and it does not carry any liability, risks or responsibility for the defunct operator and its Administrator,” Lodge said in a statement.
“Unfortunately the Administrator has refused to cooperate in signing-off on the Charter Substitution Arrangement, in spite of an offer of full indemnity by Rex and representations made by the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
“It is disappointing that the Skytrans Administrator has chosen to leave the affected Cape communities high and dry at a time when these remote communities are being cut off by the wet-season.”
A Bentleys spokesman said it was “inappropriate for creditors to assume the risk of allowing Rex to take over the routes without first obtaining CASA approval”.
Rex said the earliest it could start flights from Cairns to Aurukun, Edward River, Kowanyama and Bamaga would be mid-March and it would seek regulatory approval from CASA to start regular public transport (RPT) services with 34-seat Saab 340 aircraft to those communities.
“Lockhart River and Coen present more operational challenges and are still being analysed for feasibility,” Rex said.
Skytrans chief executive Simon Wild announced on January 2 he had decided to stop immediately flying and wind up the company after 25 years of operations.
Wild said at the time the downturn of resources-related flying work and the slumping Australian dollar, along with the loss of its three government contracts, were among the key factors in his decision to close down Skytrans just a day after its 25-year anniversary.
The Skytrans boss said all staff entitlements including redundancy pay and superannuation were up to date.
As an interim measure, the Queensland government has chartered aircraft from Cairns-based Hinterland Aviation and Townsville-based West Wing Aviation to assist passengers stranded by the sudden shut down.