Applications have now opened for businesses to claim their share of the government’s $300 million regional aviation bailout.
The financial package is confirmed to cover one service per week on each route to 138 communities, as well as granting extra help for aero-medical and “other essential industry service providers”.
The plans have received a mostly negative response from the industry, with Rex arguing that “not a single cent has been disbursed” and a conglomerate of businesses representing ground handling saying it “ignores” them.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said in a statement, “This funding will ensure a basic level of air connectivity is maintained to regional locations during this crisis, by funding operators for one service per week on each route for an initial period of up to six weeks.
“We are also providing direct financial support to smaller regional airlines, ensuring they remain viable in this unprecedented downturn in aviation activity.”
Last week, Rex launched a stinging attack on the federal bailout before announcing it was to suspend Queensland services.
The airline 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.”
However, the next day, Rex U-turned and said it was keeping a limited service in operation in the state “in good faith” that a more permanent deal with the Queensland government could be negotiated in seven days’ time.
Meanwhile, Cabin Services Australia, dnata, Menzies Aviation and Swissport have said the package ignores the ground handling industry and rejected the idea that the government had been speaking to them daily.
A statement from the group said, “Today’s funding focus on regional airlines appears to fundamentally misunderstand how the aviation sector works in this country, and ignores the fact that all air freight comes into Australia through a capital city airport.
“Yes, there are critical staff and services in regional Australia, but only providing support to them will not protect regional Australia, as no planes can operate if the airports – regional or major – do not have any ground handlers.
“Critical medical supplies and equipment and other time-sensitive goods cannot be moved around Australia without the services ground handling companies provide.”
The grant guidelines for both regional programs are available via the GrantConnect website: www.grants.gov.au.