Qantas and Regional Express (Rex) have won contracts to exclusively fly seven regional routes in Queensland, under the state government's regulated air service plan.
QantasLink continues to hold the Brisbane–Roma–Charleville and Brisbane–Longreach–Barcaldine–Blackall corridor and will upgrade the majority of those flights to its Bombardier Q400 to deliver "a quieter, more comfortable and faster travel experience", while Charleville services will be upgraded to the Q300 jet.
QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the airline recognised the importance of air services to regional communities.
“We have also timed the services in consultation with the local communities, to ensure that our flights are best suited to their needs."
Rex picked up five routes, including a renewal of the two Townsville sectors it already operates:
- Brisbane–Toowoomba–St George–Cunnamulla–Thargomindah
- Townsville-Hughenden–Richmond–Julia Creek–Mount Isa
- Cairns–Normanton–Gununa/Mornington Island–Burketown–
- Charleville–Quilpie–Windorah–Birdsville–Bedourie–Boulia–Mount Isa
Rex plans to begin flying the three new routes – tagged as Gulf, Western 1 and Western 2 – from January 2015.
Rex won the three additional routes from Skytrans, which recently declared it would axe Sydney-Toowoomba flights after QantasLink begins servicing Toowoomba's new Brisbane West Wellcamp airport next month.
And while Virgin Australia has been lobbying for the Brisbane-Roma corridor to be opened to competition, the airline says it opted out of the final tender process.
"After careful deliberation, we chose not to respond to the tender as we do not believe the proposed contract was in the best interests of the travelling public or our company," a Virgin Australia spokesman told Australian Business Traveller.
“We believe the Roma – Brisbane route should be deregulated as opening up the route to competition will benefit the travelling public with more flights, better value fares and more choice. We look forward to bringing competition to more regional destinations across Australia."
Virgin's play for a larger slice of the regional air transport market has seen it acquire and rebrand Perth-based Skywest as a Virgin airline, to push into country centres and charter-based 'fly-in, fly-out' (FIFO) services dominated by QantasLink.
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