Flying 'roo fights back - Qantas dangles jobs carrot as Rex air war looms

QANTASLINK has rubbished claims the arrival of a competitor on the Tamworth-Sydney service would result in a dramatic cut to ticket prices.

The airline’s chief executive officer, John Gissing, told The Leader yesterday there was no evidence to support recent assertions made by rival airline Regional Express (Rex).

On Monday, Rex’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, fired a salvo by suggesting that ticket prices on legs served by one airline are up to “twice what they are in competitive routes”.

His comments came as Rex increased the pressure on Tamworth Regional Council to offer concessions on security fees to make it easier for the airline to enter the market.

But Mr Gissing said QantasLink simply did not take advantage of customers by charging them more in markets, such as Tamworth, where there was no competition.

“We get that price is absolutely critical, and so on any independent measure ... what happens in Tamworth is absolutely comparable to any other sector length in the network we operate,” he said.

“Where we have markets where we are the sole operator, there is absolutely nothing to be gained ... by either having pricing that’s not attractive to our customers or pricing that’s not going to give us a viable business proposition.”

Mr Gissing said QantasLink had no fear of competition and was confident its prices, service, reliability and, most importantly, safety record would stack up against anyone.

“We say ‘great’, we welcome competition and we’re really pleased for Tamworth that our competitors are finally recognising what we’ve seen as an amazing place,” he said.

“We get that this is a brilliant place to live and bring your kids up. We get that it’s a fantastic tourist destination. We get that there’s business opportunity here.

“What surprises us is how is it that our competitors have only just discovered this place called Tamworth?”

Mr Gissing also revealed that the airline had opened preliminary discussions with council on the possibility of adding to its staff of about 100 employees by expanding its heavy maintenance services at Tamworth Airport.

The facility, which services the airline’s entire fleet of Dash-8 aircraft, could grow to allow maintenance of two planes simultaneously.

“We’re very confident, but just being very cautious – as any business – until we lock down what the opportunity is from a cost point-of-view so that we can not only give job security in Tamworth, but also talk about growth and business development,” he said.

Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the facility was “a pretty important cog in the wheel” of the city and the council would be keen to assist in its growth.

“I was encouraged to hear this morning that there could be potential for growth beyond this particular type of aircraft and maybe some other facilities here,” he said.

“We’d certainly be happy to sit at the table with QantasLink and see how that might be achieved.”

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