Qantas is set to launch seven weekly return flights on yet another exclusive Rex route as the bitter row between the airlines deepens.
The flag carrier will add Burnie–Melbourne to its network for the first time in 15 years, using its 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turboprops.
It marks another escalation in the war of words between the two airlines, which have for months been involved in a tit-for-tat argument over launching new services.
From 21 June, QantasLink will operate seven weekly return flights from Burnie to Melbourne, adding 700 seats on the route each week.
QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the news would offer travellers and the business community more choice.
“We’re promoting these new flights to millions of our frequent flyers across the country and think they’ll enjoy the benefits of our premium service, including complimentary food and drinks, baggage and lounge access before they fly out,” said Gissing.
The row between the two airlines began in February when Rex accused Qantas of uncompetitive behaviour by launching rival services on its previously exclusive routes: Sydney—Orange, Sydney–Merimbula, Sydney–Griffith, Melbourne–Merimbula, Melbourne–Albury, Melbourne–Wagga Wagga, Melbourne–Mount Gambier, Adelaide–Mount Gambier.
Outlining his case at a Senate committee at the time, Sharp said the routes Qantas moved into are too small for them to make a profit on.
“They’re doing it because they want to swamp us, to push us out of our traditional marketplace and to hurt us financially so that in turn hurts us in our expansion into the domestic market,” he said.
“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.
Finally, two weeks ago, Joyce and Sharp exchanged withering newspaper columns about each other in the AFR.
“It’s a well-known fact in the industry that Rex has now chalked up another dubious honour,” wrote Joyce. “It has presided over the worst launch of a new jet airline in Australia’s aviation history, with empty aircraft and announced routes that have never been flown.”
It came after Sharp wrote that Joyce was a hypocrite for going “cap in hand” to the federal government for help.
“Qantas is now so desperate that it is willing to risk universal ridicule just to get its hands on more cash at any cost,” he wrote.