Regional Express airlines (Rex) has cut most of its regional services amid an economic downturn for the aviation industry as new travel restrictions and warnings come into effect across Australia.
Weekly return services between Merimbula and Sydney, and Moruya and Sydney, have each been reduced to 12, down from 19, while weekly return services between Melbourne and Merimbula have been cut from 12 to eight.
The 40% reduction in services will take effect from Monday, 6 April, as a part of the airline’s first stage of network reductions to help mitigate the financial impact of the coronavirus – or COVID-19.
Rex’s General Manager of Network Strategy & Sales, Warrick Lodge, said the situation is rapidly unfolding and it is impossible to predict what will happen in the future.
“The operating environment is extremely fluid and we will be monitoring the situation closely. If the situation worsens we may be forced to further reduce capacity in the interests of maintaining essential regional air services,” he said.
“This capacity reduction alone will not be enough and we have reached out to local councils to seek a reduction in airport charges to keep operating costs to a bare minimum so that the reduced services can be sustainable.”
The cuts came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $715 million rescue package for airlines which includes the waiver of Airservices Australia charges, the fuel excise, and regional aviation security charges – measures that will be backdated to 1 February.
Rex’s Deputy Chairman, John Sharp, said that the package may not be enough to see regional carriers through.
“Regional carriers do not have the balance sheet to last very long in this environment. While Rex may have six months of reserves if things do not deteriorate further, most others have only weeks if not days of cash left,” he said.
Rex has a 60-strong fleet of Saab 340 aircraft, operating 1,500 weekly flights to 60 destinations throughout every Australian state.