REGIONAL Express (Rex) claims ticket prices on the Tamworth-Sydney route will “drop dramatically” – perhaps even by half – if it can break QantasLink’s monopoly.
But potential passengers have been warned the opportunity will be lost unless Tamworth Regional Council decides quickly whether the airline’s terms are acceptable.
The carrier is insisting it be exempt from paying the $8.50 per head screening fee levied on QantasLink aircraft, as by law passengers on Rex’s small planes need not pass through security when exiting regional centres.
Council resolved last week to prepare a report investigating the possibility of creating a separate, “non-sterile” area from which Rex passengers could arrive and depart.
Rex’s deputy chairman John Sharp – a former transport minister in the Howard government – told The Leader that passengers would be the big winners from added competition.
“We can provide substantially lower fares than QantasLink is providing at Tamworth and still manage to operate profitably across our network,” he said.
“Some people suggest prices (on monopoly routes) are twice what they are in competitive routes for similar distances
travelled.” Flights with QantasLink from Tamworth to Sydney typically range from $95 to $490, with special cut-price tickets released occasionally.
Mr Sharp said there was great demand across several states for Rex’s services and it could not wait indefinitely for a response.
“Tamworth isn’t the only place in Australia that we could fly to that we currently don’t fly to, so if there’s no sign from Tamworth council that they want us there, we’ll find a council that does,” he said.
“It’s amazing, most councils plead with us to go there and do everything they can to persuade us. We won’t wait forever for them to make up their mind.”
Despite tabling the motion last week to get staff to look at ways to accommodate the carrier’s demands, Councillor James Treloar questioned Rex’s aggressive attitude.
“If Tamworth council comes up with a way that they don’t have to go through the screening area and, as a consequence, don’t have to be charged, will (Rex definitely) start a route?” he said.
“(Mr Sharp’s) asking us to be urgent, but he hasn’t even come back and said ‘If you do this, I will compete with Qantas’.
“If we can attract competition through Rex, that would be well and good. But Rex’s next thing will be ‘What concession will you give us on landing fees’.”