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Happy Landing

Friday, 30th May, 2014

By Andrew Robertson

City Council and Regional Express have ended hostilities and announced plans to enter into a new agreement that will deliver a direct flight to Sydney from next year.

After threatening to axe direct services and reduce flight frequency, Rex has now agreed to maintain existing air services under a proposed five-year agreement.

It has also committed to introduce an early morning direct service to Sydney after June 2015.

No other details about the terms of the proposed agreement - which follows a meeting between Rex and Council general manager Therese Manns this week - were provided by either party yesterday.

But in a joint statement the airline and council said the proposed agreement would provide “increased certainty” around airport costs and air services.

“Rex is very encouraged by the collaborative approach adopted by Broken Hill City Council and its management that has made this agreement possible,” said Warrick Lodge, Rex’s General Manager Network Strategy and Sales.

Mr Lodge said the agreement would also provide the framework for future improvement in services “when the economic environment improves”.

Only recently Mr Lodge was threatening to recommend to his board that all direct flights to capital cities be axed and flight frequency be reduced after Council proposed to increase its head tax.

Reductions appeared even more likely after the airline last week said it had still not received a submission Council had promised in early May.

It also contradicted Ms Manns’ claim that she had arranged to meet with the board at the end of the month to discuss the submission, and that it had no intention of meeting with her.

But yesterday Ms Manns and the airline were speaking from the same page.

“This outcome is significant, particularly with Rex not only maintaining services, but enhancing the existing Sydney route with the introduction of direct flights,” Ms Manns said in the statement.

“We are fortunate to have a service that connects to three capital cities that certainly supports tourism and critical fly-in fly-out services for our health stakeholders and community. It is a positive outcome for our city.

“I would like to thank the Rex Board as this new partnership signifies the commitment of both parties to build a strong relationship for the benefit of the Far West region.”

Under a previous agreement that Rex tore up in 2012, the airline paid a $10 head tax until passenger numbers reached 35,000, after which revenue was split equally between the two parties.

Deputy Mayor Marion Browne told the BDT that the new arrangement with Rex “has not involved reverting back to old fee structures”.

“We believe that we have entered an agreement that will bring benefits to our city and support Rex in increasing passenger numbers,” Ms Browne said.

“It is a relationship we want to continue to build.

“Given our financial situation we were always looking for the best possible partnership arrangement and I believe that has been reached.”

Councillor Dave Gallagher yesterday credited the outcome to the negotiating skills of Ms Manns.

“I’m very, very impressed and happy,” he said.

“I think she did quite well for this city and it’s good to see.”

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