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Rex axes even more regional routes over Qantas row

written by Hannah Dowling | May 30, 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 has again announced that it will soon exit five regional routes, with possibly more to come, over Qantas’ “predatory” behaviour.

The carrier said it will withdraw all services from Bathurst, Grafton, Lismore, and Kangaroo Island on 30 June, when federal government subsidies under the Regional Aviation Network Support (RANS) program ceases.

The airline will also exit from Ballina two days later, on 2 July.

“Rex has faithfully serviced most of these routes for 20 years, and some of them for more than 30 years by Rex’s predecessors Kendell and Hazelton,” Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said in a statement on Monday.

“So it is with a really heavy heart that we have to announce the cessation of services in an effort to improve Rex’s financial performance.

“Qantas’ well-publicised predatory actions on Rex’s regional routes have meant that Rex no longer has the ability to cross-subsidise these regional routes.”

A Qantas spokesperson said Rex’s latest claims are “just ridiculous”, and added that “Rex’s standard approach whenever it withdraws from a route is to blame Qantas”.

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Rex previously suggested it would cut these destinations from its network in March 2021, when government subsidies for regional routes was initially slated to end, again blaming Qantas for making the routes unprofitable. Qantas responded to the accusation by calling it a “classic Rex tantrum”.

It also comes after the carrier recently announced its departure from both Sydney-Canberra and Melbourne-Albury, and reignited a long-standing battle against rival Qantas over both airline’s network expansion into each other’s territory.

The fiery war-of-words has seen Qantas CEO Alan Joyce mock Rex’s “empty aircraft” while Rex deputy chairman John Sharp called Qantas’ moves “predatory”, and questioned how Joyce can “look at himself in the mirror some mornings”. Qantas has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

“It is unfortunate that these regional communities are the collateral damage of Qantas’ bullying and heartless behaviour,” Sharp said.

“This behaviour is more unconscionable after receiving over $2 billion in federal bailouts over the past two years.”

The tit-for-tat battle ramped up after Rex announced plans for its own grand entrance into capital city routes in 2020 on a fleet of second-hand Boeing 737s. The previously regional carrier took off on its first Melbourne-Sydney flight on 1 March 2021.

Then, in February 2021, Qantas took on eight separate routes that were previously exclusive to Rex: Sydney-Orange, Sydney-Merimbula, Sydney-Griffith, Melbourne-Merimbula, Melbourne-Albury, Melbourne-Wagga Wagga, Melbourne-Mount Gambier, Adelaide-Mount Gambier.

“Rex is always looking to blame others when it withdraws from regional routes, but none of its claims stack up to scrutiny,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

“Rex has a monopoly on three of these routes it’s abandoning, so if it can’t make them work, it has no-one else to blame but itself.”

They continued: “Rex says it doesn’t have the funds to cross subsidise these routes, but it doesn’t have a problem finding money to invest in more aircraft for its capital city 737 operations. That must be confusing for regional customers given Rex’s tagline is that their heart is in the country.

“Rex’s claims against Qantas have become so far-fetched, we had to create a dedicated page on our website to rebut them and update it on a fairly regularly basis as they cook up more weird conspiracy theories.”

Earlier this year, Qantas announced it would soon also begin operating two weekly return flights between Sydney and Broken Hill – a route that Rex has operated solely for 18 years.

Speaking with ABC Radio in February, Sharp accused Qantas of unnecessarily “swamping” the market but insisted Rex would adjust its operations as needed to compete.

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.

Comments (11)

  • Steve

    says:

    I’m so confused. They want to blame Qantas for their underperforming routes regionally, but have nothing to say about their loss making 737 services. Surely if they can run 20 pax each way ex Bne on their services, then they can keep their Saab operations running regardless. Sharp is more corrupt than Joyce….. and who would have thought that be possible

    • Evan

      says:

      Evan

      Once a politician always a politician- John sharpe couldn’t lie straight in bed . He doesn’t say how many “Qantas” routes he’s ambushed eg Syd/CFS I’ve been here 25+ yrs and never Rex land here …. Except in an emergency 😂.

  • JD

    says:

    Given that Qantas don’t even operate on some of these routes how can they be blamed for REX ceasing service to those places. Did Qantas or Virgin complain about REX starting services between the capital cities and Gold Coast? Losing money on routes that are not profitable where you have the monopoly surely can’t be blamed on another carrier.

  • Matt Lindsay

    says:

    I think its pathetic that REX are blaming Qantas – 3 of the routes that Rex are withdrawing from they are sole operators on – such as Sydney to Bathurst, Sydney to Lismore and Sydney to Grafton. I think Rex would do much better if they were taken over by Virgin Australia because it will attract all of the Velocity Frequent Flyers.

    • Craig

      says:

      Doubt Virgin’s owners’, Bain, would be interested in buying a loss-making little airline, with prop planes’, average age of 25+ years’, & second-hand Boeing 738’s.

      Virgin’s buying the Boeing 737-800MAX new jets for its’ fleet.

  • AgentGerko

    says:

    Ballina was never going to work for Rex, given they were up against the A320s and 737s of Jetstar and Virgin, but places like Grafton, Lismore and Bathurst surprise me as they’ve been exclusive for Rex.

  • Vannus

    says:

    Sharp will blame anybody else except himself, for Rex’s poor performing routes’.
    By his totally belligerent wordage against QANTAS, & its’ CEO Mr Alan Joyce, since March 2020, he has lost his airline many customers’.
    People are fed-up to the back teeth hearing him whinge, whinge, whinge at any opportunity.
    Typical ex-pollie.

    The fact he’s pulling out of these is due to Fed Govt RANS payments’ being stopped, end of next month.

    The end of 21/22 FY is only a month away, & he’s got to report to Rex’s SIN billionaire owners’, why the airline is in deep financial do-do, & removing itself from even some monopolised Rex routes’.

    Where’s Rex’s seventh supposedly leased B738 jet? It’s in MEL, but Rex hasn’t taken it on-board yet.
    Why not? Money troubles?
    Conveniently, Sharp hasn’t mentioned it. Again, why not?

    It’ll make interesting reading Rex’s Annual Report.
    Then Sharp’s ‘management’ will be open for all to see, & it won’t be pretty.

  • chris

    says:

    I feel sorry for the major regional NSW town of Grafton losing it’s airline service.

  • BeeJ

    says:

    Rex has bitten off more than they can chew with trying to get into the jet market. Now wants to blame Qantas for their own regional mess because they are losing money hand over fist. Give it a rest John Sharp, it’s bloody embarrassing.

    • Vannus

      says:

      Yes, BeeJ, the seventh second-hand Boeing 738 Sharp was supposed to get next month has now gone overseas.
      Maybe that’s to do with Rex not having the funds to lease it.
      Doubt its’ owners in SIN will be giving Sharp funds to lease an additional 8 jets he keeps going on about with ‘expansion’.

      His foray into the so-called ‘golden triangle’, which he entered to much brouhaha, has been an unmitigated disaster for Rex.
      Loads as low as 10 pax on an interstate flight don’t pay its’ expenses, even one-way.

      Let’s see if he’s still flying those main trunk routes’ by this Xmas.

  • Warwick

    says:

    So with pulling out of various ports’ by Rex’s Sharp, where does leave the agreement he signed with DL last month, with much bluster & touting, for oncarriage to DL flights from Oz to USA?

    Seems like DL rushed in, & didn’t do much ‘homework’ on Rex.

    It’ll be interesting to see how long that contract lasts……

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