QantasLink on Monday took on Rex by launching flights between Sydney and Griffith, and Melbourne and Merimbula.
In an apparent dig at its rival, QantasLink CEO John Gissing marked the launch by arguing the move would offer locals “more choice and competitive fares” on what was “previously a monopoly route”.
The two routes were among eight that last week caused Rex to furiously brand Qantas “predatory” for launching.
The QantasLink De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300, VH-SBJ msn 578, departed Sydney at 10:32am as flight QF2121 and landed in Griffith at 11:53am, while another Dash 8, VH-SBW msn 599, departed Melbourne at 11:47am as flight QF2176 and landed in Merimbula at 12:50pm.
“As the national carrier, we have an important role to play in driving tourism and supporting the industry in its recovery from COVID-19,” said Gissing on the Griffith route.
“We know Australians want to travel so we’ve been looking for opportunities to support new routes where there is demand and help deliver a boost for local businesses.
“We’re working with tourism partners to promote the world-class wineries and fresh produce of the beautiful Riverina region to millions of our frequent flyers around the country.
“We think our customers will enjoy the benefits of our premium service, including complimentary food and drinks, baggage and lounge access before they fly out.”
Griffith mayor, councillor John Dal Broi, also appeared to welcome Qantas’ challenge to Rex.
“Connectivity to Sydney is critical to our economy and lifestyle and Council is pleased residents and businesses will now have additional flight scheduling options – the introduction of these flights recognises Griffith as a growing regional city with increasing potential,” said Dal Broi.
“I would encourage you to support the air services on offer and consider flying next time you visit Sydney.”
Last week, Qantas and Rex became involved in an extraordinary public slanging match over the flag carrier’s move to compete with Rex on eight routes.
Rex said Qantas “predatory” network increases were to blame for it cancelling its services on five separate routes. Qantas responded by saying Rex was having a “tantrum” and argued it only operated on one of the discontinued routes.
“Rex’s idea of competition is that it’s something that happens to other people, because they believe they have an enshrined right to be the only carrier on some regional routes,” Qantas said.
Rex’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, said, “Qantas has clearly embarked on a deliberate strategy of moving into Rex’s routes that can only support one regional carrier in an attempt to intimidate and damage Rex in its traditional regional market, hoping that Rex would be a less formidable competitor in the domestic market.”
Qantas responded by branding the announcement “a classic Rex tantrum”.
“The fact is Rex is receiving millions of dollars in bespoke government assistance for its regional operations at the same time as it’s acquiring new aircraft to fly between capital cities,” said the business in a statement.
“It feels like Rex is trying to blame Qantas for other challenges they may be having. We don’t start routes if we don’t think they will be commercially viable for us.
“We know that extra capacity and lower fares increases overall travel demand, which is good news for the regional communities we will be operating to. We’ll be reviewing our network and consider whether we can offer services on any of the routes that Rex is threatening to pull out of.”