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Rex wins three new regulated Queensland air routes

written by Jordan Chong | October 15, 2014

A Rex aircraft at Townsville.  (Seth Jaworski)
A Rex Saab 340 departs Townsville. (Seth Jaworski)

Regional Express (Rex) has emerged as a big winner from the Queensland government’s latest tender of regulated regional air routes.

Rex has won three new regulated air service contracts, meaning it will operate five regulated routes from January 1 2015, Queensland Transport and Main Roads minister Scott Emerson said on Wednesday.

The airline won the three new routes from regional carrier Skytrans, which will be left with no regulated air service routes when the new contracts commence on January 1 2015.

Rex retained the contract for the Townsville-Winton-Longreach route and the Townsville-Hughenden-Richmond-Julia Creek-Mount Isa route.

It picked up Brisbane-Toowoomba-St George-Cunnamulla-Thargomindah, the Brisbane-Toowoomba-Charleville-Quilpie-Windorah-Birdsville-Bedourie-Boulia-Mount Isa route as well as the Cairns-Normanton-Mornington Island-Burketown-Doomadgee-Mount Isa routes. The three routes are currently being operated by Skytrans.

Rex will service Toowoomba with flights to Australia’s newest airport, Brisbane West Wellcamp, making it the second passenger airline to commit flights to the privately funded and built facility.

QantasLink begins Sydney-Wellcamp services on November 17.


The new routes increase Rex’s route network to 52 destinations, from 36 previously, Rex said in a statement on Wednesday.

Rex general manager of network strategy and sales Warrick Lodge said the airline had almost doubled passenger numbers on its regulated routes since it won the two contracts in February 2010.

Lodge said the airline was keen to hire staff from Skytrans.

“We are also mindful of the potential loss of employment for many staff and agents of the incumbent and we are committed to hiring/keeping as many of the staff and agents as we can,” Lodge said in a statement.

“We will be visiting all 16 new ports during the next two weeks where we will be hoping to have discussions with all affected parties.”

Meanwhile, QantasLink retained two regulated routes.

The first is Brisbane-Roma-Charleville, while the second was Brisbane-Longreach-Barcaldine-Blackall.

QantasLink said it would upgrade services to Roma, Longreach and Blackall to Bombardier Q400 aircraft, while flights to Charleville would be operated by Q300 aircraft.

“Qantas’s history started in outback Queensland in 1920, so we’re delighted that we can continue to serve these important regional communities,” QantasLink chief executive John Gissing said in a statement.

The Queensland government deregulated three routes, with Cairns-Weipa, Cairns-Horn Island and Townsville-Cloncurry-Mount Isa now open to competition.

However, it decided to keep the Roma route regulated, much to the disappointment of Virgin Australia, which had previously expressed interest in bidding but decided not to.

“We believe the Roma-Brisbane route should be deregulated as opening up the route to competition will benefit the travelling public with more flights, better value fares and more choice,” a Virgin spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“After careful deliberation, we chose not to respond to the tender as we do not believe the proposed contract was in the best interests of the travelling public or our company.”

CAPA – Centre for Aviation said in an April 2013 research note that Qantas had increased capacity on the Brisbane-Roma route from 1,700 seats per week in April 2012 to 2,900 seats per week a year later.

Comment was being sought from Skytrans.


  • Chuck


    Would be interesting to see if Rex chooses to connect its southern and northern networks. With the new airport at Toowoomba (Brisbane West Wellcamp) likely to provide significantly lower costs it would make sense to develop a crew and aircraft base to support a network interface between its existing extensive southern network, and its newly expanded northern operation.

    A logical route integrating Wellcamp into Rex’s southern network would be Toowoomba-Newcastle, as it could avoid going head to head with QF or VA, and it would complement Rex’s network focus on connecting regional cities and centres.

  • Random


    Linking Rex’s two route networks would seem to be a sensible move.

    Not sure how accommodating the Wagners would be on developing an aircraft and crew base. Probably not likely that Rex would want the overheads of doing it through Brisbane, and they probably need a route like Newcastle to get the traffic volume.

  • Dave


    I can’t see Toowoomba – Newcastle being viable. One possible way to link the networks would be Brisbane – Armidale – Sydney (which many moons ago was operated by Impulse) or Brisbane – Toowoomba – Armidale/Tamworth – Sydney.

  • Random


    Not sure you would want to join the networks through Brisbane – the costs would be too high.

    Toowoomba Wellcamp would more likely give cheaper access to labour, hangarage, and aircraft parking.

    They could consider old-style triangular routing (akin to East-West F27 operations). Something like Newcastle-Moree-Toowoomba triangle might give the yield. State-based route subsidies are unhelpful in situations like this. I wouldn’t be so sure that Newcastle and Toowoomba is unviable though, and it is probably better than head to head with the majors as it is an unserviced route based on reasonably sized population centres.

  • Chuck


    If Rex wanted to completely link the northern regional network to the southern, via a node at Toowoomba, they could also consider Wellcamp to Townsville – which would likely be within range-payload capacity of the SAAB 340B.

    With an aircraft that size that may not need high payload high frequency, and the logisitc advantages of a new node centred on routes like Toowoomba to Newcastle and Townsville might out-weigh lower payloads.

  • craig


    As an outsider, Rex is complaining poor mouth, now it has these new routes, hopefully that will stop. From the pont of view of an ex Rex Pax, where are Rex going to consider new aircraft, the SABB 340 can’t fly for ever. May the Dash 8 replace some of the SAAB’s

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