REGIONAL Express (Rex) is still threatening to reduce the frequency of its Orange/Sydney flights, despite Orange City Council overturning a decision to raise passenger fees from $15.95 per person to $16.25.
Rex claims Orange’s $15.95 passenger fees are the highest of all regional airports it services, despite the charges being only slightly higher than Bathurst’s $14 fee and Dubbo’s $13.60 fee.
A Rex spokeswoman said keeping the Orange Airport fees at current levels was a necessary first step, but the airline would prioritise cities which had partnership agreements.
“Rex is willing to work constructively with Orange to develop such an agreement which will see Orange well served with the right frequencies and with more affordable fares,” she said.
The spokeswoman said the council made about $500,000 profit from passenger fees each year, while most regional cities that Rex services subsidised airport operations in the same way they paid for the upkeep of roads and bridges.
“Council should reduce the head tax to make it cost neutral so that it would result in really affordable fares for the community,” she said.
“When this happens, Rex is committed to pass all reductions back to the passengers and to also make an additional contribution to stimulate air travel.”
But Aerodrome committee chair Cr Chris Gryllis said the council did not aim to profit from the airport with all revenue from passenger fees poured back into airport operations and infrastructure.
“Orange has been a good milking cow for [Rex],” he said.
“The income Orange brings them is in excess of $10 million.
“Every time we try to increase the fees we always have the same ding-dong with Rex.”
Cr Gryllis said it was ironic Rex’s fares to and from Dubbo were dramatically less than those from Orange despite the slight variation in passenger fees and the added distance.
“If I was Rex I’d do the exact same thing and try to make as much profit as possible,” he said.
“If they go away another airline will come.
“I do care [about the threat to services] but I think they should behave like an adult not a child.”
The Rex spokeswoman claims the $18.9 million Orange Airport upgrade will cost travellers more with the larger terminal and longer runways meaning higher operating and maintenance costs.
“The increased costs are passed back to the airlines and subsequently the travelling public through increased airport fees,” she said.
But Cr Gryllis defended the upgrade saying the airport needed improving for the future and the work was supplemented by money from Cadia Valley Operations, and the state and federal government.
Council spokesman Allan Reeder said since passenger fees were first negotiated with Rex’s precursor Hazelton Airlines, they had only increased with the consumer price index.