POLL: Clear the air with Rex first: Whitton

ORANGE City Council could answer Regional Express’s (Rex) call for greater co-operation between the airline and the council, if Cr Jeff Whitton has his way.

Since the collapse of Rex competitor Brindabella Airlines several councillors have said Orange is likely to see a second airline return to the skies.

But Cr Whitton believes the council should work more closely with the airline it already has instead of trying to attract another competitor. 

“Here we have a business that’s been loyal to Orange,” he said.

“For several decades they were Hazelton [Airlines], now they are Rex and they employ local people, they even have a call centre here.”

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Last month, Rex threatened to reduce the frequency of its Orange/Sydney flights due to the council’s high $15.95 passenger fees but also flagged its desire to enter into a partnership agreement with the council to provide the right flight frequencies and more affordable fares.

Cr Whitton said he had not been contacted by the airline, but his past experience working in the airline industry meant he knew how tough it could be.

He would not say if he thought the passenger fee should be reduced.

“Rather than come up with solutions off the top of my head we should be sitting down with Rex and talking about all the issues they suffer as a business and what their concerns are,” he said.

“From Rex’s point of view they’ve got to have seating available that’s at a price that’s affordable.

“That’s the discussions we need to have, how do we get to a point where Rex gets what they need and in turn the city gets access to reasonable fare structure that brings new visitors to Orange and allows residents to use the services.”

Cr Whitton acknowledged Rex fares were expensive compared to domestic flights between the capital cities, but he said there was a lack of understanding of the costs involved in air travel.

“The costs that came into flights is take-off and landing,” he said.

“Distance has nothing to do with it.”

Cr Whitton will table a motion at the next council meeting for himself, general manager Garry Styles, mayor John Davis and aerodrome committee chair Cr Chris Gryllis to meet with Rex representatives but it will be up to his fellow councillors to decide if it should go ahead.

STORY: FLIGHT TAX A STICKING POINT

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