Rex Airlines has announced it will exit Sydney-Canberra just one year after its launch, after earlier accusing rival Qantas of “fare gouging” on the route.
It comes after Virgin Australia also entered the Sydney-Canberra market earlier this month – through its wet lease agreement with Link Airways – for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
Virgin appears to have been offering slightly cheaper fares than Rex, with tickets for this coming weekend starting from $238 return, compared to Rex’s $258.
Rex also claims that Sydney Airport will increase its airport charges on 1 June, also contributing to its decision to exit the route.
“We are proud to have brought much needed competition to the Sydney-Canberra route and airfares have never been cheaper,” Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said.
“Unfortunately, with the entrance of an additional operator and the very high charges imposed by Sydney Airport from 1 June 2022 mean that the route is no longer viable for Rex,” he said.
“The resources will be diverted to other routes which will provide a better return,” he added.
Impacted passengers will be offered free of charge rerouting or a refund, the airline said.
Rex announced last year that from April 2021, it would challenge Qantas to fly Sydney-Canberra, given that Qantas at that time had a monopoly on the service.
The regional carrier even accused its rival of “fare gouging” and said it would offer customers annual savings of up to $100 million when capacity returns to pre-COVID levels.
Rex said it would fly seven return flights a day between Canberra and Sydney from 19 April but could increase that to 10.
It was then the latest move in a tit-for-tat argument over launching new services, which started with Rex accusing Qantas of using “predatory” tactics to compete with it on previously exclusive routes. The flag carrier responded by arguing that its smaller rival was throwing a “tantrum”.
Now, a year later, the public spat continues, after Rex last week reignited its longstanding battle with Qantas over its fleet expansion into previously Rex-exclusive routes, after pulling out from a key battleground.
Rex announced it will exit the Melbourne-Albury route after 39 years, with its final service on the route to take place on 29 May. It comes after Qantas took on the service in February 2021, with the move to see Qantas claim a monopoly on the route.
Melbourne-Albury was one of the first eight previously Rex-exclusive routes that Qantas subsequently entered, which sparked a fiery war of words between the two carriers, and an ongoing back-and-forth that has seen both airlines battling over each other’s regional routes.
The battle saw 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.
The news comes after a brief ceasefire in the aggressive back-and-forth, which last saw Rex pledge in February to pursue “all legal avenues” against the Flying Kangaroo, and promise to launch more services on routes that compete with Qantas.