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Rex says game on to Qantas over Sydney-Broken Hill

written by Hannah Dowling | February 8, 2022

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 is primed to take on Qantas head-on, after the Flying Kangaroo announced it will soon begin operating two weekly return flights between Sydney and Broken Hill – a route that Rex has operated solely for 18 years.

Rex Airlines has held a monopoly on Sydney-Broken Hill flights since 2004, and currently conducts daily return flights plus one return service on weekends on its 36-seat Saab 340 aircraft.

However, come Friday, 8 April, QantasLink will break Rex’s exclusive streak on the route, with twice weekly return flights, taking place on Mondays and Fridays, on its fleet of 50-seat Dash 8 Q300 aircraft.

Speaking with ABC Radio on Tuesday morning, Rex deputy chairman John Sharp accused Qantas of unnecessarily “swamping” the market, however Rex is ready to adjust its operations as needed to compete.

“We are constantly looking at the schedule and trying to adjust to suit the market conditions and we will obviously keep doing that.


“I mean [Qantas’ entrance] will impact on what we do in some form or another; We’ll probably shift schedules around a little bit to try and be even more competitive with Qantas and try and match whatever they’re doing and do it better and cheaper for the passengers.”

Sharp suggested that Qantas was only moving into the Broken Hill route in order to “retaliate” at Rex’s decision in late 2020 to expand into the domestic capital city market, placing it in competition with Qantas.

“They don’t like that, and they’ve made lots of complaints to people about our behaviour in moving into that market. So, in retaliation, they’ve been moving into our regional market,” Sharp said.

Sharp said that pre-COVID, around 28,000 passengers flew between Sydney and Broken Hill each year, a number which has fallen to under 9,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Qantas’ announcement yesterday means that they’re putting 10,000 seats into the market, where there’s currently only 8,000 or 9,000 passengers,” Sharp explained.

“They are swamping the market and the question is whether they’ll hang in there and keep offering the service, or whether after a short period of time, when they’re satisfied that they’ve given Rex a good punch in the nose, then they’ll walk away from it.”

Sharp also noted that Rex and Qantas will “now both lose money on the Broken Hill service”, given the fact that there will be far more seats available than demand dictates.

“You’ve got to think that we’ve been doing this by ourselves to Broken Hill for 18 years, since Horizon stopped flying, and Qantas has had all those years to come and fly and operate into Broken Hill, but they’ve chosen not to,” he said.

“Because they know they’ll never make money out of it with two operators.”

Meanwhile, announcing the decision to expand into Sydney-Broken Hill, QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the service will offer greater connection between urban and rural NSW.

“We are constantly looking for new opportunities to stimulate domestic tourism and support small business operators across regional Australia,” he said.

“We know many Australians are eager for their next holiday destination and outback New South Wales has plenty to offer.”

Broken Hill regional council mayor Tom Kennedy welcomed the announcement and said Qantas’ arrival on the route will result in greater choice and lower airfares for customers.

“I think the community will be very excited to see the arrival of Qantas and to see some competition in the local market,” he said.

“Air travel is of vital importance to our community for tourism, health, and education, and I’d like to thank Qantas for providing locals with more options and more flexibility by offering their services out of Broken Hill.”

Rex currently has its Sydney-Broken Hill flights routed via Dubbo due to current demand trends, however, intends to restart direct daily flights from the end of March.

Rex has long accused Qantas of inserting itself into Rex’s previously-exclusive routes in retaliation of Rex’s similar expansion into the domestic market, and last year announced it has appointed a legal firm to “pursue all legal remedies” against Qantas over the issue.

The airline said the team will be led by Clayton Utz’s Fred Prickett, who has previously represented gambling business Tatts in its “nine-figure dispute” with the state of Victoria.

The move follows a long-running war of words between Rex and Qantas over network expansion, which has seen Qantas’ chief executive, Alan Joyce, mock Rex’s “empty aircraft” and Rex deputy chairman John Sharp argue that he doesn’t know how Joyce can “look at himself in the mirror some mornings”.

Qantas has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

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Comments (8)

  • Kim


    Hay mate.
    You go in there territory you have to expect them to go after yours.
    as you said early late year. That called competition

  • Damian


    Sharp sure doesn’t like competition does he?

    The aircraft that QANTAS operates is much younger than Rex’s old Saabs.

    Let’s we who gets the highest load factors’ during the next six months’.

    • jdfghjhgdf


      Damien, the Q300 is 1980s aircraft, it is just as old as the Saab. I believe that the remaining fleet of Q300s are late production models, but so are Rex’s Saabs. There’s not much difference in age as the Saabs last came off the line in 1999 and the Q300 in 2003. You’re only looking at a few years difference in age not “much younger”. You can expect be in an aircraft that is over 20 years old either way. I don’t think people are going to pick Qantas over REX because the aircraft are say 22 years old vs say 26 years old.

      What I don’t like is that both planes are slow. Broken hill is over 1000km from Sydney. That is a long distance to be bouncing along at 270 knots in a propeller driven plane. It would be nice if someone would operate a jet like the ERJ135 or CRJ550 for a smoother and much faster trip at 400 knots +

  • George


    From a consumer’s perspective, it is good to see competition. From an aviation’s perspective, I see it as a challenge, yet both Joyce and Sharp are acting like 6 years old kids arguing about who’s better….just get on with your work!

  • Ken


    Sharp just does not get it!
    He bought into the prime Melbourne-Brisbane-Sydney Golden Triangle routes.
    Plus other lucrative routes and now when the majors respond he cries foul.
    He clearly does not understand competition.

  • Eric


    Sharp mouthing off as usual, as he hates it when another carrier enters on a route Rex has, & gets very nervous of the competition, especially when he’s had the monopoly of that particular route, for years’.

    Conversely, he had no qualms about entering onto the ‘golden triangle’ main east coast trunk routes, which QANTAS has flown for decades, & others’ too.

    Typical ex-pollie who’s got the gift of the gab, but not much else.

  • chris


    Well let’s see if Q Link stay on the route for the long haul, because it certainly won’t support two airlines. Any comparison with the trunk routes ignores the economic imperatives.

  • Peter


    None of the comments mention the people of Broken Hill. Who stand to be the losers.
    If one or both airlines decide not to continue on a loss-making route, both may pull out.
    Qantas has a history of entering routes that they know will run at a loss. Rex has a long history of serving the outback, and makes a profit doing so. Its Saabs run at a fraction of the cost of a Q300.
    Qantas twice a week will only appeal to tourists, whereas Rex supplies a there and back in a day service for professionals like legal and medical specialists.

    In this hoary old argument, its always the same, no correspondent ever considers the residents and professionals that are the lifeblood of the outback. The point scoring is just juvenile.

    As for Qantas being irritated by Rex entering the capital city routes, are you serious? Qantas is more than forty times the size of Rex. The fact that Qantas even acknowledges Rex’s existence means that it sees tiny but successful Rex as some kind of threat. Really?

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