The government has announced it will continue to supplement domestic routes until 31 January 2021 and regional routes until 28 March 2021.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack used the announcement to put pressure on more states to “do their bit” and open borders to further help the aviation industry.
“In regional Australia, flights are so central to local economies, underpinning many small businesses including tourism operators, whilst ensuring continued access to key medical supplies and personnel,” Deputy PM McCormack said.
The package of help for regional aviation, known as the Regional Airline Network Support program, was announced in late March and was initially projected to last six months.
It covered 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 autumn announcement came hours after a help-us-or-lose-us deadline imposed by Rex and eight independent carriers.
You can see a full list of Rex’s supplemented regional network here.
Meanwhile, the Domestic Aviation Network Support, first unveiled in April, covers all capital cities and initially allowed the Qantas Group to increase its network from 105 to 164 per week; and Virgin to shift from running only Sydney-Melbourne services to flying 64 return services.
Both carriers have since increased their network as borders have reopened.
“We know regional tourism will help drive Australia’s economic recovery and today’s announcement of further support for key routes will be a big boost to local economies,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.
“We acknowledge the disruption caused by current border arrangements has made life difficult in the aviation industry, with cancelled flights, refunds and passenger frustration.
“Uncertainty affects the ability of airlines and airports to plan for recovery and undermines consumer confidence, which amounts to a significant cost to industry and ultimately the Australian economy.
“The federal government is doing our bit by underwriting these flights to maintain minimum connectivity, now we need the states and territories to do their bit too as we again encourage the continued easing of border restrictions.”
The strong performance was in part attributed to the company accepting $62.1 million of government grants, including JobKeeper and regional aviation bailouts.
This led to Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce attacking Rex for accepting the handouts before unveiling plans to expand its network. “That doesn’t feel right,” said Joyce. “That doesn’t seem right.”
Rex fired back, stating Joyce was “misinformed by his advisers” and arguing that it was impossible to use the COVID-19 payments for improper means because they are “strictly audited” by Ernst & Young.