SABOTAGE: Deputy premier lashes Qantas over Rex exit
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has spoken out on Rex's decision to exit routes across regional Australia, and has put the blame firmly at national carrier Qantas, calling their entry into regional routes "sabotage".
Yesterday, Rex announced a revamp of its network, including the axing of its Grafton/Lismore service to directly take on Qantas who are competing on routes. As part of the revamp, it will move its North Coast service to Coffs Harbour to directly take on Qantas at the airport.
Mr Barilaro said he felt for regional communities across NSW who had been caught in the crossfire of an airline war between Rex and Qantas.
"Qantas, the self-proclaimed 'Spirit of Australia', is the first to pull on our patriotic heartstrings but in the same breath sabotages a rival airline, failing to consider the long-term impact on regional communities who depend on vital air services for travel, freight and connectivity," he said.
"Rex in its DNA is a regional and rural airline, and it is doing its best to fill the gaps left by Virgin, while Qantas is trying to cripple Rex before it even gains a foothold in some regional markets."
Mr Barilaro said that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas had received more than $1.2b in taxpayer subsidies, which should be focused on servicing airline routes that were lost, and not trying to use the current climate to monopolise the market and crippling a dedicated regional airline.
"Rex works with communities to identify routes which are profitable and subsequently makes informed decisions as to which routes need to be subsidised," Mr Barilaro said.
"Qantas seems motivated only by its own narrow commercial interest, not what is in the best interest of the community."
The deputy premier called on the Federal Government to ensure that following the completion of the Regional Airline Network Support program next month, that during the transition process, regional carriers were not forced to leave regional communities behind.
"I am also calling on the Federal Government to work with Sydney Airport to open up any landing slots that have been shelved by companies like Virgin and Tiger, and offer them to companies like Rex, which put regional communities first," he said.
"These routes will continue to be marginal for these airlines and the best thing they can do in this climate is work with each other to support regional NSW, not destroy the competition."