Regional Queensland leaders, including Warrego MP Ann Leahy and Maranoa Regional Council mayor Tyson Golder, have praised Rex as the new provider of regulated air routes connecting the communities of Roma and Charleville to Brisbane city.
The route, Central 1 Route, was previously serviced by regional rival QantasLink, before Rex snagged the Queensland government contract in November 2021, and commenced operations on the route on 1 January.
Compared to its predecessor, Rex has more than doubled the number of return services between Roma and Brisbane per week, up from 12 services under QantasLink, now to 28.
Granted, Rex will be operating flights on its smaller 33-seat Saab 340s, as opposed to QantasLink’s larger Dash 8s.
Under the new schedule, Rex will perform four return flights per day between Brisbane and Roma most of the week, and six return services on Friday, plus return services on both Saturday and Sunday.
Roma’s Maranoa Regional Council mayor Golder supported the move to increase services on smaller aircraft and said the decision should see cheaper airfares for regional Queenslanders.
According to Cr Golder, prior to Rex being awarded the state government contract, the communities of Roma and Charleville were growing increasingly dissatisfied with the previous operations of Central 1 Route over decreased services and fare increases.
“The devil generally is in the detail – the community will know because they will start using the services,” Cr Golder said.
“There are people now that actually get in their car and drive because it’s not affordable to fly.”
Cr Golder said Rex’s strategy will hopefully boost the now “pretty low numbers” of residents flying between Charleville, Roma, and Brisbane.
“We need to get those numbers up way past 100,000 – I’d like to see it get to 150,000,” he said. “That’s better for our services, businesses outside the region, they’re the future of the Maranoa.”
Meanwhile, Ann Leahy, the local MP for Warrego – which encompasses both Roma and Charleville – said that offering increased services and same-day returns between Roma and Brisbane will see residents in the regional town better connected, particularly for specialist health purposes.
“That is critically important for our health services,” Leahy said, “Because of the changes previously, we lost two orthopedic specialists from our hospital, which meant more people had to travel away by driving.
“And a lot of people don’t get their treatment when they can’t go on a same-day return.”
“The doctors’ schedules are very strict, because they’re working around the access to operating theatres in Brisbane, so they need to be able to move on particular days with certainty,” she added.
“I think the schedule we’ve seen gives that certainty.”
The comments follow earlier criticisms from mayor Shaun Radnedge of Murweh Shire Council – of which Charleville is the largest town – who dubbed Qantas’ decision to cut down on weekend services to Charleville as “disappointing”.
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.”
Rex general manager for network strategy Warrick Lodge called the commencement of its Central 1 Route contract as of 1 January a “wonderful way to start the New Year”.
He highlighted that Rex strives to provide “increased flight frequency, improved schedule convenience and fare affordability” through the provision of the Rex Community Fare scheme to Roma and Charleville residents.
“This program will unlock significant benefits for the local communities and has the potential of reversing the downward spiral of passenger numbers due to years of neglect,” Lodge said.
The new contract, awarded to Rex by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, will run for a period of five years.