25 September 2023

Regional councils disappointed but not surprised by flight cuts as pilot poaching clips Rex's wings

| Jarryd Rowley
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plane on tarmac

Australia’s largest regional airline, Rex, has announced several regional airports will have fewer flights to and from Sydney due to pilot poaching from competitors. Photo: AFAP.

Australian regional airline Rex has announced another round of flight cuts, with seven rural NSW towns, including Griffith, Narrandera and Albury, to face heavy reductions until at least 31 March, 2024.

From 30 October, the regional routes affected are: Sydney to Albury, Sydney to Griffith, Sydney to Narrandera, Sydney to Orange, Sydney to Parkes, Sydney to Port Macquarie, and Sydney to Coffs Harbour.

Rex will also suspend flights between Sydney and Armadale and withdraw from Cairns to Bamaga in Far North Queensland.

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The announcement comes after similar reductions in Victoria and South Australia earlier this year which saw more than 15 regional airports targeted for flight reductions to and from Melbourne and Adelaide.

Rex general manager of network strategy Warrick Lodge said the lack of available pilots due to relentless poaching from major airlines, including Qantas, had left the regional carrier with no choice but to scale back the number of routes.

“We intend to return to the standard flight schedules from 31 March, 2024; however, this is subject to the situation improving,” Mr Lodge said.

“Unlike other carriers, we prefer to reduce the scheduled services so that our passengers can be assured of fewer disruptions and more reliable services.”

Narrandera Shire Council Mayor Neville Kschenka said last Friday’s announcement was disappointing, but he was not surprised by Rex’s decision.

“We, like several other councils, have a very close relationship with Rex and we understand some of the challenges that they are facing at the moment,” Cr Kschenka said.

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“Right now, they’ve announced that the reductions are only in effect until the end of March. Obviously, we are hoping once that time period comes, hopefully, normal services will be able to resume.”

Cr Kschenka said rural flight services were heavily relied on by many people around the state, not just those in the Riverina. He said he understood Rex’s decision to cut flights but believed it left regional towns with few travel options.

“Normally there would be a handful of flights a day that would travel to and from Sydney,” he said. ”With the number now being reduced, it means that people looking to fly won’t be able to come back on the same day they left, adding more expenses for regional people.”

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