Rex has U-turned on its support for Saturday’s regional aviation bailout and now says it will shut down Queensland passenger routes in 24 hours.
In a statement, Regional Express said, “While the federal government has announced several assistance packages for airlines, no concrete details have been forthcoming and more importantly, not a single cent has been disbursed.”
However, on Saturday, deputy chairman John Sharp said the business had the “utmost gratitude” for the $300 million financial package, which he added would allow essential regional aviation services to continue. The airline appears to have reverted to last week’s position of being critical of the government.
In a statement released at midnight, Rex said it would shut down its Queensland regular public transport services from 1 April 2020, including five regulated routes operated under contract with the Queensland government.
The Queensland ports affected are:
- Bamaga NPA
- Julia Creek
- Mount Isa
- Mornington Island
- St George
- Toowoomba (Wellcamp)
In a strongly-worded statement, the carrier said, “The federal government is only funding a minimum essential service of one return weekly flight per route, and this reduced schedule approach was rejected by the Queensland state government.
“With cash fast running out and no immediate prospect of a workable solution from the Queensland state government, Rex has no choice but to declare a force majeure event for the contract and suspend all services on Queensland regulated routes indefinitely until it has the ability to service the contract in a commercially viable manner.”
It said services on the remainder of its network would run to the “barebones levels” facilitated by Saturday’s regional aviation package.
The announcement appears to complete a huge about-turn in its position. On Saturday, Sharp said, “All regional communities and residents should be extremely grateful to the Coalition government for its commitment to the future of the regional cities.
“This meaningful assistance package not only seeks to keep essential air services going, but also tries to prevent the existing regional aviation providers from collapsing.”
Sharp noted that the government assistance package will see “all previously sustainable” regional operators “spring back into business if the crisis dies down” within six to nine months.
The package will include $198 million for regional airline routes to 138 communities and a further $100 million for related companies that support the industry.
Last week, Rex appeared to be aggressively pushing for a bailout. On Monday, 23 March, the business declared it would shut down its passenger air services in all states except Queensland from 6 April, unless there was a financial aid package.
Then, on Friday, it claimed it would not be able to transport coronavirus testing kits from the regions to the capital cities for analysis without government help.