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Skytrans steps in to replace Rex’s Cairns–Bamaga flights

written by Jake Nelson | October 26, 2023

Lenn Bayliss shot this Skytrans DHC-8-100.

Queensland-based regional carrier Skytrans is stepping up its Dash-8 100 services from Cairns to the Cape York town of Bamaga in response to Rex pulling out of the route.

Skytrans, which has operated three flights per week to Bamaga since September 2021, will increase its frequency to nine per week as of October 30, with an eye to further increases from April. It follows Rex’s decision to drop the route, accusing Qantas of “relentless pillaging” of its pilots.

Skytrans CEO Alan Milne told Australian Aviation that the move was a great opportunity both for Skytrans and for Bamaga.

“When [Rex] first announced that they were downscaling their services, we reached out to the [Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council] and started having conversations about what additional capacity we could put in, and then the announcement that they were pulling out altogether changed the game a bit. That has resulted in us increasing capacity on that city pair,” he said.

“The NPA Council has been so thrilled that we’ve been able to step in, that we had some aircraft and crew availability that we could throw at it pretty quickly … we’re planning into that longer-term with fleet planning as well to increase it, so it’s all pretty fortuitous, the timing, that we were able to help so quickly.


“We build relationships with the communities, and we want to make sure that we support them as we can, so we couldn’t have them not serviced at all.”

Milne signalled that Skytrans would look to adjust its capacity as needed, working with NPA Council to determine how much is required, and that the carrier would be interested in stepping in should Rex pull out of any other routes in the region.

“It just depends on what the council would like us to do, where they think that the needs will be, and we’ll support that. Obviously, we’ll make sure it’s at a profitable load factor, but we’ll work with them to determine how much,” he said.

“We’re a Far North Queensland-based airline, although we do have bases in Brisbane, Rockhampton, and Townsville as well, and then of course on Horn Island. We cover a lot of Queensland territory, and if there’s a need for those communities to be serviced, then we’ll be looking at doing that, definitely.”

Qantas and Rex have been involved in a long-running dispute over network expansion, with Rex launching flights between major capital cities and Qantas flying on previously small, Rex-exclusive routes.

The Flying Kangaroo has consistently denied any wrongdoing and accused the smaller airline of being afraid of competition.

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