Barely a year – one year, one month and 11 days, to be precise – after introducing flights between Sydney and Canberra, Rex Airlines is axing the route, blaming its decision on competitive pressures and high charges taking effect from June at Sydney Airport.
The final service between the two cities, popular among business travellers and government officials, will take off from Sydney on 29 May 2022.
Rex says it will then divert resources to routes which will provide “a better return”.
Deputy Chairman, John Sharp, maintains he was pleased the airline was able to serve the Sydney-Canberra corridor as part of Regional Express’ expansion into capital city trunk routes.
“We are proud to have brought much needed competition to the Sydney-Canberra route and airfares have never been cheaper,” he said.
From the outset, Rex offered seven return flights between the two cities each day with one-way fares starting from $99 on its 33-seat Saab 340B turboprops. This was complemented by the opening of its own lounge at Canberra Airport.
Its ambition was to eventually scale this up to the larger Boeing 737 jets on morning and afternoon peak services, which offered eight seats in business class and 168 in economy and to compete with Qantas on what was at the time a monopoly route.
Virgin Australia resumed its own services between the two cities in January 2022, flying up to 53 times weekly using similar Saab 340B Plus aircraft from regional carrier Link Airways.
Melbourne-Albury also bites the dust
The withdrawal by Rex is its second in the space of a week, with 29 May also marking the end of direct services between Albury and Melbourne – a route it has served for 39 years.
Sharp lay the blame for the axe falling on Albury directly at the feet of Qantas and what he described as “illegal predatory behaviour to drive out competition in a war of attrition, knowing that its competitors do not have the balance sheet to lose money indefinitely.”
“Sadly for the community, we will soon see Qantas providing only a token service once it sees that it has achieved its objectives,” Sharp added with an acid tongue.
In response, a Qantas spokesperson noted “Rex’s standard approach whenever it withdraws from a route is to blame Qantas.”
Noting that Qantas has also launched services from Albury to Brisbane and Adelaide in the past two years, neither of which are serviced by Rex, along with an uptick in Brisbane-Albury flights, the airline said it sees “strong growth potential in the region and have launched three new routes to and from Albury in the past two years, only one of which was also serviced by Rex.”
“Rex’s idea of competition is that it’s something that happens to others, because they believe they have an enshrined right to be the only carrier on some regional routes. The reality is that Qantas services have been welcomed by regional communities as providing competition and flexibility.”