ORANGE City Council is “delusional” to think its “lavish” plans for a $3.3 million terminal at Orange Airport will attract more regional air services, according to Regional Express (Rex) general manager Warrick Lodge.
Just days after Rex’s competitor Brindabella Airlines went into receivership, the airline has come out swinging against Orange council, in an open letter, blaming its “exorbitant” airport fees as a contributor to Brindabella’s demise.
Earlier in the month, councillors signed off on an increase to the airport fees from $15.95 per arriving and departing passenger to $16.25, but were set to debate a rescission motion to potentially overturn the decision at Tuesday night’s meeting.
It’s not the first time Rex has written to the council criticising Orange’s passenger tax, which Mr Lodge said was the highest of all regional airports serviced by Rex in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
“Council’s actions and decisions are totally irresponsible, in the midst of one of the most toxic aviation environments where both Qantas and Virgin Australia are fighting for their survival,” he said.
“Council will be held accountable to its constituents for the way it is exploiting its air services in a myopic effort to bolster its treasury.”
Mr Lodge threatened to use some of the airline’s Sydney Airport slots for other cities instead of Orange and also slammed the “grand terminal” the council was building, saying it would end up costing travellers more.
But the council’s general manager Garry Styles hit back, saying claims the passenger fee was being used to boost the council’s coffers were unfounded.
“If the airport upgrade didn’t go ahead next year, Rex would be claiming its passengers were being disadvantaged,” he said.
He said the timing of Rex’s critical letter - just days after Brindabella’s collapse - would not be lost on the public.
“The council has received many letters of this tone from Rex many times before,” he said.
“Once again it’s all about Rex.
“To be using this financial tragedy [of the Brindabella receivership] that’s cost 140 jobs as an excuse to threaten to reduce Orange’s share of time-slots into Sydney airport beggars belief.”