Regional carrier Sharp Airlines is to report Rex to the competition commission after it launched a rival service between Wynyard and King Island in Tasmania.
The Mercury newspaper has reported that Rex denied any wrongdoing, “welcomed scrutiny” and “encouraged Sharp Airlines to lodge a formal complaint”.
Sharp’s chief executive, Dallas Hay, told the newspaper, “While all airlines globally are suffering due to COVID-19 it appears Rex has the capability of expanding their network and with the view of weakening an existing operator.
“Even if the passenger numbers return to pre-COVID-19 levels in the next 12-18 months, Rex’s entry on this route with increased capacity will diminish load factors to a clearly unsustainable level for two operators to be commercially viable.”
Rex explained that it introduced the new service as a result of operating a combined Melbourne-Wynyard-King Island-Melbourne service.
“This was implemented as an efficiency measure in the same way that Rex introduced a new sector for Wagga Wagga-Albury as a result of operating a combined Melbourne-Albury-Wagga service.
“Under the Commonwealth government’s Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) program, these combined routes are funded for up to three return services a week, which is what Rex is offering to both of these combined routes.”
The war of words comes weeks after Rex itself accused Qantas of launching a “commercially unsustainable” Sydney-Orange route.
Rex then called on the federal government to “review” any financial assistance provided to Qantas from the Australian Airline Financial Relief Package, the Domestic Aviation Network Support package and the COVID-19 Regional Airline Network Support program.
Qantas responded by accusing Rex of double standards. “Rex is clearly uncomfortable about facing competition and seeing their monopoly on flights to Orange coming to end,” a Qantas spokesperson told Australian Aviation.