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Rex snags regulated QLD regional routes from Qantas

written by Hannah Dowling | November 23, 2021
A Rex Saab 340b, VH-RXX, alongside a Qantas A330-202, VH-EBN, as shot by Victor Pody
A Rex Saab 340b, VH-RXX, alongside a Qantas A330-202, VH-EBN, as shot by Victor Pody

Rex has been awarded a new five-year contract by the Queensland government to perform a key regional air route connecting regional communities across central Queensland with Brisbane city.

The Queensland government announced on Tuesday that from 1 January, Rex will take over the Central 1 route, connecting the regional towns of Roma and Charleville to the state’s capital of Brisbane.

Central Route 1 forms one of seven regional routes that are regulated by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, and the route was previously serviced by Rex rival QantasLink.

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QantasLink’s contract is due to expire in December after five years of servicing Central Route 1, and Rex said the tender process for the route was “competitive”.

In total, Rex was awarded with six regulated routes under the Queensland government’s regulated air service contract scheme, retaining its five previous contracts for another five years.

This includes:

  • Northern Route 1 from Townsville to Winton to Longreach and return;
  • Northern Route 2 from Townsville to Hughenden to Richmond to Julia Creek to Mount Isa and return;
  • Gulf Route from Cairns to Normanton to Mornington Island to Burketown to Doomadgee to Mount Isa and return;
  • Western Route 1 from Brisbane to Toowoomba (Wellcamp) to St George to Cunnamulla to Thargomindah and return; and
  • Western Route 2 from Brisbane to Toowoomba (Wellcamp) to Charleville to Quilpie to Windorah to Birdsville to Bedourie to Boulia to Mount Isa and return.

The contract for the final air route under the scheme, Central Route 2 from Brisbane-Blackall-Barcaldine-Longreach, is yet to be awarded for 2022, however this was previously held by QantasLink.

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It comes three months after the mayor of Murweh Shire Council – of which Charleville is the largest town – Shaun Radnedge criticised Qantas for its “disappointing” decision to cut down on weekend services to Charleville.

Mayor Radnedge said the move was particularly painful given that the airline’s very first route was a mail run between Charleville and Cloncurry, originating in November 1922.

“To be a part of that history and to be treated the way we are at the moment is very disappointing,” Cr Radnedge said, “It’s pretty poor form.”

At that time, Cr Radnedge said he had already lobbied the Department of Transport and Main Roads to take QantasLink’s handling of Charleville flights into consideration when awarding the next contract for the flight route.

“We’re getting to the pointy end of the tender process,” Cr Radnedge said. “[I want] everyone that has involvement in this, has a clear picture moving forward of what the expected service is to be to these regional areas, and be able to deliver them.”

Meanwhile, rival Rex began operating on Queensland’s regulated RPT air routes in February 2010, when it was first awarded the Northern 1 and Northern 2 routes from Townsville.

Come January, Rex will be operating at least six of the seven regulated air routes.

Rex general manager – network strategy, Warrick Lodge said the Queensland government’s decision to offer Central 1 to Rex over QantasLink was a testament to the airline’s increasing commitment to outback Queensland over the last decade.

“When Rex was awarded the five regulated routes back in October 2014, Rex promised the Queensland state government and the local regional communities that we would exceed the already very high standards we had been delivering on the Northern 1 and 2 routes since 2010.

“Today I can honestly say that we have acquitted ourselves well on the promise. We have exceeded all KPIs, achieved record customer satisfaction ratings and we have not had a single missed flight over the last seven years to the 23 communities that we serviced under the contract,” Lodge said.

“Rex welcomes Roma to our vast network, and we are glad that it can now finally benefit from Rex’s incomparable services after missing out for well over a decade,” Lodge added.

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9 Comments

  • Geoffrey

    says:

    Will their old Saabs’ keep airworthy, & not lose a prop in flight like happened a couple of years’ ago?

    Must be costing Rex megabucks on engineering for them, as well as still some having lease fees’ being paid each month.

  • Steve jones

    says:

    Bet the punters will “enjoy “ an old clapped out Saab compared to the much newer Dash

  • AlanH

    says:

    The Saab 340Bs are comparable to the Dash8-300s and have been refurbished to current day standards but they are still sardine cans. Time to upgrade to newer ATR42s perhaps?

    • Ashley

      says:

      You jest, don’t you, ALANH?

      With Rex’s continuous yearly multi-millions’ $ losses, where do you think they’d get the money from to buy, or even lease newer aircraft?

      Their Singaporean owners’ don’t seem too fussed in pouring funds into it whatsoever.

      So, they must keep the old Saabs’ airworthy, which would be costing heaps $.

  • christopher

    says:

    The Saab 340b is an extremely well built safe reliable aircraft and has served with distinction across Australia
    and many thousands of people fly on them every year with good service to passengers always there

  • marcus

    says:

    Swedish reliability servicing the bush. Happy flying

  • Matt Lindsay

    says:

    The Saab 340s were a good aircraft in their days….I used to fly on them from Melbourne to Wynyard when they were owned by Ansett Australia. But the Q400s are more modern and I feel sorry for the passengers going from a modern aircraft to ones that are out of the ark.

  • Vannus

    says:

    This is a ‘hollow victory’ for Rex, as most of these routes’ are not financially viable, so it’s not going to make mega $ on them.

    As for the mayor having a dig at QANTAS’ early history, he would do well to remember that his town’s citizens’ didn’t support QantasLink in patronising it, so flight numbers’ were reduced.

    NO airline can afford to run empty, or near empty flights’ to anywhere.
    That’s just financial ‘suicide’.

  • James

    says:

    They’re subsidised Vannus. If the aeroplane is empty, all costs are covered. Anyone that gets on board is profit.

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