REGIONAL Express (Rex) has announced a bold plan to break QantasLink’s monopoly hold over the Armidale to Sydney route.
From March 28, the airline will offer 36 flights a week – including a thrice daily return service on weekdays – between the two destinations.
The move marks Rex’s return to Armidale after it operated the route in competition against QantasLink between 2004 and 2006.
Warrick Lodge, the airline’s network strategy and sales manager, said the time was right for the company to re-enter the Armidale market.
He said the airline had hired 10 pilots left unemployed when Brindabella Airlines collapsed and was originally intending to target Moree.
But the Moree community’s unshakeable support for QantasLink convinced Rex its services would be better appreciated elsewhere.
Mr Lodge said while the company would not engage in a price war with QantasLink, the addition of 60,000 seats on the route would inevitably result in the availability
of more tickets at cheaper prices for passengers.
“We felt that Armidale demonstrated the right dynamics for potential growth and also the sort of cost environment at Armidale Airport to facilitate that growth into the future as well,” he said.
“We believe, based on our experience elsewhere, that we can operate with superior, on-time performance and lower cancellation rates than our competitor.
“We think that was probably one of the main things that was really missing in Armidale and that, combined with Rex offering three return services with peak timeslots that give the business community the ability to do day-return travel, was a more important aspect than price.”
New England MP Barnaby Joyce, who has fielded concerns from residents over the lack of competition and high ticket prices on the route, said it was good news for the region.
He said the return of Rex to Armidale could potentially lead to the airline expanding into Tamworth and offering flights to Sydney and Brisbane.
“It’s great to see another player in the marketplace,” he said. “Reliable travel providers give our electorate and its constituents the opportunity to do what they do well with the support of good transport services.”
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said it was a “fantastic” development and urged residents to support both airlines.
“The arrival of Rex will ensure more flights, greater choice and vigorous competition, which will be hugely beneficial for all passengers,” Mr Marshall said.
“I have no doubt that this move by Rex will also trigger QantasLink to make some changes to its service.”