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Rex in stoush with Whyalla Council after dropping flights

written by Jake Nelson | May 22, 2023

Victor Pody shot this Rex Saab 340B, VH-ZXQ.

A war of words has erupted between Rex and South Australia’s Whyalla City Council over the airline’s decision to exit Whyalla due to increased airport security screening costs, with Rex saying Council has “lost all credibility”.

Rex announced last week it was pulling out of its Adelaide-Whyalla route from 1 July after Council made the move to pass on the cost of airport security screening to airlines, which is estimated to raise ticket prices by around $40. Council said this was due to the Federal Government’s decision to stop funding screening operations.

Rex’s General Manager of Network Strategy, Warrick Lodge, slammed the decision as “devious and underhanded”, saying Council is “forc[ing] Rex to subsidise the security screening costs of Qantas whose services are legally required to be screened”.

“The significant additional security cost makes the Whyalla to Adelaide route unviable for Rex and as a result of Council’s decision Rex has no option but to exit,” he said.

“We have made it perfectly clear to the City of Whyalla for many months that this unnecessary and significant cost will result in the route being financially unsustainable. Rex’s decision should therefore not come as a surprise to the Council.


“Rex and its predecessor, Kendell Airlines, have serviced the City of Whyalla since 28 June 1986 so it is disappointing that this current Council is ungrateful for the 37 years of reliable, frequent and affordable air services that have provided significant socio-economic benefits to the City of Whyalla and the surrounding region.”

In response, Whyalla Mayor Phill Stone called Rex’s move a “huge blow” for the community, saying the blame ultimately lay with the Government for halting screening funding and leaving the “most appropriate option” as passing the increase on to the airlines rather than ratepayers.

“For Rex to use Council as a scapegoat for this decision and suggest it was ‘underhanded’ is quite frankly unfair, as we have been having ongoing discussions regarding this situation for some time,” he said.

“We will now have to work extensively with the broader airline industry to explore options to help minimise the impact of this decision, while ensuring our airport can play a key role in Whyalla underpinning the hydrogen and renewable energy transition for Australia, Asia and beyond.

“All airlines utilising the facility will need to cover the cost of screening, particularly given passengers cannot be segregated from screening based on their carrier. Only passing the cost on to Qantas would create an unfair playing field due to it resulting in about $80 extra per departing passenger for Qantas, while Rex would incur no additional costs.”

Rex hit back, however, accusing Council in a statement of being “deliberately deceptive” and saying “a simple partition and minor renovations works” would have allowed screened and unscreened aircraft to depart from the same terminal. The airline added that security screening – which has been in effect at most regional airports for 11 years – had only begun at Whyalla 18 months ago when Qantas brought larger aircraft to the airport.

“Rex believes that Whyalla Council has lost all its credibility, and Rex will no longer engage with this present council,” the airline said.

Adelaide–Whyalla was one of nine routes where Rex cut back services last month due to parts and labour shortages.

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