GLIMMER OF HOPE: Qantas calls Rex exit a ‘tantrum’
When it comes to the battle for the regional skies between Regional Express and Qantas, it's war, and it seems that QantasLink may look to fill the gap left by Rex's departure from five regional routes, including Grafton and Lismore.
Responding to comments from both Regional Express's deputy chair John Sharp, and NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, QantasLink CEO John Gissing has not minced his words.
"This is a classic Rex tantrum," he said.
"Rex's idea of competition is that it's something that happens to other people, because they believe they have an enshrined right to be the only carrier on some regional routes."
Mr Sharp said yesterday in their announcement to cut five regional routes that Qantas was making record losses during COVID and had received an estimated $1.2 billion in Commonwealth assistance to stay solvent.
"Despite this, (Qantas) feels it is appropriate to use taxpayers' funds to finance the losses on new services whose sole objective is to weaken the competitor," Mr Sharp said.
Mr Gissing responded by stating that Rex was receiving millions of dollars in bespoke government assistance for its regional operations at the same time as acquiring new aircraft to fly between capital cities.
"It feels like Rex is trying to blame Qantas for other challenges they may be having," Mr Gissing said.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro on Monday joined with criticism of Qantas, and stated that Qantas seemed motivated only by its own narrow commercial interest, not what is in the best interest of the community.
"Frankly, we are surprised Minister Barilaro fell for Rex's spin to try to justify a commercial decision to stop flying to five regional communities," a Qantas spokesman said in response.
QantasLink said since the start of the pandemic the Qantas group had announced 26 new routes to reflect new travel demand patterns - with only eight on routes that Rex currently operate and they remained the largest carrier on all these routes.
They also said the majority of government support received by the Qantas Group went directly to its people who were literally grounded with no work, through Jobkeeper. All other support, provided to all airlines, went towards maintaining critical passenger and freight connectivity, bringing stranded Australians back home and offsetting a range of government charges.
Qantaslink CEO Mr Gissing said they would review their network and consider whether they could offer services on any of the routes Rex was threatening to pull out of.
"We know that extra capacity and lower fares increases overall travel demand, which is good news for the regional communities we will be operating to."