Rex’s executive chairman, Lim Kim Hai, has warned Australians that COVID is not over and could yet spring “more surprises” despite vaccination rates creeping up.
“I believe we will need to be incredibly agile and nimble, ready to change course completely at the drop of a hat,” he said on Thursday.
It comes despite rivals Qantas and Virgin beefing up their flight schedules and announcing major sales ahead of the anticipated easing border restrictions in the coming months.
Chairman Lim said on Thursday that COVID-19 has been a “humbling” experience for the airline industry and that there could be more struggles to come.
The Rex chairman noted that while Singapore reached its 80 per cent vaccination target in its population in early September, it still faced a record infection rate and lockdown requirements.
The comments come just days after Rex announced that it was keeping its newly acquired Boeing 737s grounded, as well as continuing to operate at a reduced capacity for its regional services, until 31 October.
The airline said it had “no option” but to make the decision, which will also see hundreds of staff remain on stand-down, due to “the current rate of infection”, border restrictions, and the long lead time required to plan routes and sell tickets.
Rex appears far less optimistic on recovery than its rivals Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin, all three of which continue to bank on the impending easing of border restrictions as they expand their networks and announce major sales on interstate flights.
Earlier this week, Jetstar launched a major sale assuming the imminent return of normal domestic operations, including the re-opening of Queensland and Western Australia’s controversial borders.
This is despite speculation that Queensland will keep its border shut tight to NSW and Victoria until after Christmas, while Western Australia touts a reopening in April 2022.
From midday on Tuesday, Jetstar will offer 500,000 discounted tickets across its entire domestic network, including 22,000 seats on offer from just $22.
Many of the ultra-low fares on offer rely on the easing of current border restrictions with NSW and Victoria, including flights between Melbourne and Cairns, Brisbane and Newcastle, and Sydney and Uluru.
Notably, while parent company Qantas opted to abandon flights between Perth and the eastern states until April 2022 due to Western Australia’s ongoing hard border with NSW, Victoria and Queensland, Jetstar’s sale offerings also include flights between Perth and Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
On Thursday, Virgin also released a new airfare sale for flights beginning 11 October, including numerous flights connecting Sydney and Melbourne with popular Queensland destinations, such as Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Cairns.
Meanwhile, Qantas continues to gear up for its restart of international flights from 18 December, with flights to the UK, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Singapore, Tokyo and Fiji all scheduled – despite no official word from the government on when international travel will resume for Australians.
“We can adjust our plans if the circumstances change, which we’ve already had to do several times during this pandemic,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in August, announcing the airline’s international re-start plans.
“Some people might say we’re being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we’re ready.”