The Mayor of Whyalla has accused Rex of defaming his council and issuing misleading statements in the latest twist in the “Rexit” row.
Mayor Phill Stone said the airline was “ignoring the facts of the situation” and added the business’ proposed terminal renovations would have been unfeasible.
Rex pulled out of Whyalla at the start of this month after Whyalla City Council made the move to pass on security screening cost increases at the city’s airport to airlines, accusing the council of favouring Qantas, which has since stepped in to fill the gap.
In a statement, however, Mayor Stone said Rex was being “unfair and misleading” by “using council as a scapegoat” for its decision.
“Rex continues to use emotive statements to cast council in a defamatory manner while ignoring the facts of the situation,” Mayor Stone said.
“This is not about favouring one airline over another, quite the opposite in fact — we passed on the Federal Aviation safety screening costs to both airlines evenly. Rex chose to exit without trying to implement the increased costs, while Qantas has demonstrated its commitment to the Whyalla community by maintaining and increasing its local services.
“We will continue to work closely with the broader airline industry to explore options to help minimise the impact of Rex’s decision and ensure a competitive local airline market.”
In contrast to Armidale Airport — which Rex praised for its decision to convert one gate for unscreened services, thus allowing its own and Link Airways’ sub-40-passenger flights to continue to operate without increased costs — Whyalla Airport only has a single gate, said Mayor Stone, meaning similar alterations would have been “complicated and expensive”.
“Rex’s solution for renovating the terminal purely to accommodate its needs would result in additional reconfiguration and operational costs for council,” he said.
“With no funding forthcoming from the federal government nor Rex to cover this expense, this is not a cost council can simply absorb, and we are not willing to pass such costs on to ratepayers to meet Rex’s demands.”
Mayor Stone said the federal government is to blame for the situation at Whyalla, as despite an “11th-hour, three-month extension” for security screening funding, thus far it has failed to commit to continuing the funding long-term despite “extensive advocacy” by the council to relevant ministers.
“Ultimately, the responsibility for the situation rests with the federal government which has let the Whyalla community down by ceasing this funding,” he said.
“If the Albanese government genuinely values the security and future prosperity of Whyalla and the region, it is critical they reconsider their withdrawal of funding support for what is effectively an aviation safety requirement.
“We will continue our advocacy to see the screening funding reinstated for the long-term as part of an equitable and sustainable funding model that does not disproportionately discriminate against regional communities.”