Regional Express (Rex) has confirmed it will scale back flights between Mount Gambier and Adelaide after threatening the move in response to criticism.
The airline flagged the plans earlier this week as a way to “better utilise scarce resources”, hitting back as what it described as “unfair criticism levelled at it by local officials” and accusing some of targeting Rex for “political grandstanding”.
Details released by the company today show it will immediately cut five weekly return flights until further notice.
Rex flights to be cut include:
Monday to Thursday
- 6:55am from Adelaide, arriving 8:05am at Mount Gambier
- 8:25am from Mount Gambier, arriving 9:35am at Adelaide
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
- 5:10pm from Adelaide, arriving 6:20pm at Mount Gambier
- 6:40pm from Mount Gambier, arriving 7:50pm at Adelaide
In a statement, the airline said there would still be 36 flights per week between Mount Gambier and Adelaide.
“[This] will provide approximately 61,000 seats per year which will be more than sufficient to cater to the 47,000 annual passengers on the route,” the company said.
Rex’s announcement follows a number of submissions from individuals and groups in the south-east to a Senate inquiry into regional flight prices that claimed unreliable and unaffordable air services were adversely affecting health care in the Mount Gambier area.
Specialists and patients had reported having flights cancelled, affecting their ability to attend medical appointments.
Rex claims criticism “unfair”
The airline said it was dealing with a worldwide pilot shortage, but claimed it was the most reliable regional carrier with a cancellation rate almost half that of other major regional carriers.
“Rex is undeniably the best regional carrier in Australia with its network average fare rising by only 1.1 per cent per year over the past 15 years and with its reliability being consistently one of the best — even during challenging periods like what we are experiencing right now,” the company’s statement read.
“In spite of this, local officials continue to target Rex whenever they feel the need for political grandstanding.
“Given the amount of unfair criticisms levelled at Rex by local officials, Rex has decided to scale back its services between Mount Gambier and Adelaide to better utilise the very scarce resources.”
Local politicians ‘disappointed’ by move
The Federal Liberal Member for Barker, Tony Pasin, said he had contacted Rex and asked to speak with its board.
“I’m incredibly disappointed that we’ve got to this point,” Mr Pasin said.
“Quite frankly I don’t think it’s a good approach to have the community at loggerheads with such a significant and important service provider.
“I’m not happy with the circumstance we find ourselves in. I think it speaks to a lack of maturity on the part of the proponents to this point.
“But we need to sit down with Rex and ask them if this is the right approach.”
Rex says a global pilot shortage has caused disruption across the entire aviation industry. (ABC South East SA: Stuart Stansfield)
The independent Member for Mount Gambier, Troy Bell, denied Rex airlines had been unfairly targeted for criticism and said he was disappointed by its response.
“Reliability and price have been major issues for a long time now,” Mr Bell said.
“Many leaders in the community actually want to work with Rex to improve the service.
“It shouldn’t be seen as an overly negative thing if people are raising concerns. This is actually an opportunity to improve in areas where customers are giving feedback.”
Mr Bell said he had offered last year to sit down for discussions with the airline, but Rex had not taken up the offer.