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Rex mulls service cuts

Wednesday, 27th November, 2013

By Erica Visser

Regional Express has not ruled out local service cuts after a drop in demand over the past months.

The city’s only airline told the BDT yesterday that it was “monitoring the situation closely” after struggling to operate in Broken Hill in “extremely harsh” conditions. 

City Council, which owns the airport, reported in a document that Rex suffered an 11 per cent drop in passengers between July and October compared to the same time last year.

“The reduction in passenger numbers is most notable on the Melbourne route,” it said.

In July last year, the company introduced flights to Mildura and Melbourne, and increasing the frequency of flights to Adelaide and Sydney.

There was a nine per cent growth in the months after the implementation of the new service.

A Rex spokeswoman yesterday said that last year’s boost needed to be considered when looking at the decline in passengers.

“The growth contained in the baseline numbers from July 2012 to October 2012 needs to be acknowledged in the context of reviewing the current financial year performance,” she said.

She would not say whether services were under threat in the near future but acknowledged troubling circumstances.

“The operating climate is extremely harsh with both high operating costs and waning demand, with Broken Hill demand also being impacted by the downturn in the mining sector,” she said.

“Rex is monitoring the situation closely.”

Meanwhile, it appeared that some locals have developed animosity towards the company, with around 400 people on social media page “Regional Express: Thieves of the outback.”

The page, created locally, features complaints about ticket prices and quality.

But Councillor Dave Gallagher said that the public should show more respect to Rex because if it is not careful, we’d “lose them.”

Clr Gallagher spoke out against Council’s decision to deregulate the Broken Hill to Sydney route last year in a bid to increase competition.

He yesterday said that the move had damaged Council’s reputation with Rex and was “crazy”, given the current climate.

“This is how fragile the market is. If we play around with the airline market something bad is going to happen.

“I don’t think Rex is too impressed with the decision that was made and I am totally against that move. I think it’s one of the worst decisions Council has made. 

“We should be moving forward to renew that contract and our friendship with Rex.

“There is a downturn in the economy, there is a downturn in the mining industry, so we’ve got to watch ourselves or we might end up with Rex reducing services or not flying here at all.”

Clr Gallagher admitted that ticket prices could be “very expensive” but said that planning ahead was the key to avoid being stung.

“I went to Sydney a couple of weeks ago and got my tickets for a reasonable price because I booked in advance,” he said.

“Sometimes, if you’ve got an emergency flight, yes, it’s going to cost a lot.

“But that’s what we’ve got here but Rex has been loyal to us and we’ve got to be loyal to them.”

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