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Rex attacks Virgin for ‘abandoning’ regional Australia

written by Adam Thorn | September 15, 2020

A file image of a Regional Express Saab 340B. (Dave Parer)
A file image of a Regional Express Saab 340B. (Dave Parer)

Rex released a statement to the media on Tuesday declaring it is “ready to service” regional cities that have been “abandoned” by Virgin’s decision to cut routes.

General manager Warrick Lodge said the airline was “without peer in the world of regional aviation” and would “strive to provide” customers who have lost out with a Rex service “even at break-even levels” as part of its “contribution to the nation”.

Last week, rival Virgin confirmed it would stop flying to a number of regional destinations including Albury, Tamworth, Hervey Bay, Mildura and Cloncurry.

“Rex has been inundated by desperate pleas from both individuals and community leaders to step into the shoes of Virgin Australia following their announcement to exit eight regional routes,” said Lodge.

“These communities are concerned about their future as they face the prospect of being left with Qantas as the sole monopoly provider, especially at a time when their regional economies have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, bushfires and drought.

“Our heart is in the country and Rex will strive to provide these regional communities with a service even at break-even levels as part of our contribution to nation-building at this time of severe hardship.

“Rex is without peer in the world of regional aviation. When Virgin Australia withdrew from the monopoly routes of Perth-Esperance and Perth-Albany in 2016 due to heavy losses on these routes, the Western Australian government turned to Rex to pick up the pieces.”


Lodge also hailed the success of its Community Fare scheme, which provides local communities with early-bird sale seats.

“Many of these communities have heard about the innovative Community Fare scheme pioneered by Rex that has delivered significant socio-economic benefits to more than 40 regional communities throughout all states of Australia and these abandoned communities would like to receive this benefit too,” he said.

“Rex’s Community Fares deliver substantially lower ticket prices for those communities that agree to participate. This results in a boost to local tourism, businesses and leisure travel.


“Prior to COVID, Rex introduced the Community Fare scheme and more flight frequency to these routes resulting in record passenger numbers at a time when regional passenger numbers in WA were in decline. Today, these same routes have bounced back the fastest in the whole of WA.

“Rex will apply this same operational discipline to all the abandoned routes and will help nurse them back to full recovery as the pandemic subsides. While many of the affected regional cities have already reached out to Rex, we invite all affected cities to contact us.”

Last week, Virgin confirmed it was set to stop flying seven regional destinations and scrap 10 separate flight routes:

  • Melbourne–Mildura
  • Brisbane–Port Macquarie
  • Brisbane–Cloncurry
  • Mount Isa–Cloncurry
  • Sydney–Albury
  • Sydney–Uluru
  • Sydney–Hervey Bay
  • Sydney–Port Macquarie
  • Sydney–Tamworth
  • Sydney–Nuku’alofa, Tonga

The attack on Virgin comes just days after the ACCC finally confirmed that Rex could share revenue and co-ordinate flight schedules with its two national rivals during the pandemic downturn.

The new arrangement, which includes flights to Mildura, Dubbo and Wagga, will run until 30 June 2021, however, the regulator noted collaboration is unlikely to occur until government subsidies wind down at the end of the year.

Comments (16)

  • Geoffrey


    This stuff frustrates me. Rex is not opening up regional NSW, has many pilots not flying or only receiving JobKeeper (especially in NSW), yet it promotes itself as the saviour of regional communities. I would applaud if Rex actually did something tangible to assist its staff and those regional communities that have had no resumption of air services. Its time Rex to step up and act. Demonstrate that you do actually care about regional aviation and regional communities. Start by ensuring all regional communities you serviced prior to COVID have services now and bring on Tamworth and Port Macca.

  • Craigy


    When REx says they were inundated with desperate pleas they really mean they received an email.

    If REx really was interested in nation building by providing break-even services, why aren’t they already doing it? Attention seeking is all they are interested in.

  • Watso


    “contribution to the nation”… assisted by no strings attached Government funding thanks to McCormack and Sharp???

  • Warren


    REX is appearing to be returning to their COVID games . Misrepresenting the truth of the actual situation. They are looking for more government subsidies. REX can’t operate profitably without subsidies unlike Qantaslink.

  • Salesh Prasad


    And government handouts

  • Andrea Shearer


    Rex is owned by foreign shareholders,so I would think that given the continued financial assistance from Fed government, they should be grateful. I concur with the comments already made.

  • John Phillips


    Those SAAB aircraft Rex are using must be getting long in the tooth now, and cost heaps to run. Will Rex be seeking another Govt. handout to replace them?

  • Voltron


    What an amazing turnaround for an air service that was on the brink of extinction, to turn around their operations and become the saviour of rural Australia.
    It’s amazing what a government handout to Rex can achieve.

  • Nicholas


    Again, you’re just publishing a PR stunt from Rex.

    You need to do better, we don’t need to read this, it’s not news!

    • Adam Thorn


      Thanks Nicholas,

      It was certainly a quite bizarre press release. I reported it to see what our readers would think, and I think did it in quite a objective way, too.

      Thanks for your comment,


  • AgentGerko


    Hat’s off to Rex. VA has pulled the pin because they’ve sold off their ATR72’s as unprofitable during Covid. Qantaslink must be sweating, given its fleet of even more expensive Dash 8-400’s. It’s a fact that during Covid, just as the A380s are too big for international and the A330s are too big for interstate, the ATRs and Dash-8s are too big for regional. Thank goodness for Rex and its fleet of small Saab 340s, which are far better suited. Don’t know which towns have been ‘abandoned’ as mentioned by other contributors. I did a quick check this morning and at least in NSW Rex seems to be serving all its ports, albeit with a reduced schedule.

  • Chris


    This airline does nothing but complain. By VA abandoning these regional markets, REX has a chance to step in and shine. But in the process, REX still complains about an opportunity offered.
    I guess one day when they make a record profit they will still complain.



    Best news yet. So many people love bashing REX .They obviously do not live in the regional areas. They gave a cash refund without me asking. Would of been happy with voucher.. Am a QFFF but would fly TMWSYD with Rex. Wish they could serve MRZ.

  • Thomas Mercer


    Youre hilkarious. The Q4s are perfect for Regional and Interregional flying. We are unwrapping our Dash 8s as well. Bring it Rex!

  • Daniel


    Rex looking for MORE $$$$ handouts from McCormack?
    They’ve become untrustworthy, & joust at anyone who, in their opinion, is going to be competition.
    They’ve being ‘crying wolf’ since March 2020.
    Why would anyone TRUST them, in ANY area?

  • AlanH


    “Our heart is in the country and Rex will strive to provide these regional communities with a service even at break-even levels as part of our contribution to nation-building at this time of severe hardship.” … and that’s why they’re about to set up jet services in the golden triangle of BNE-SYD-MEL! Give me a break! It’s clear their CEO is an ex-politician!

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