REGIONAL Express has labelled Orange Airport’s upgrade a “pipedream” during a state government inquiry, causing raised eyebrows at Orange City Council (OCC).
Rex presented to the Legislative Council’s inquiry into regional aviation services on Thursday in Dubbo, delivering a scathing assessment of the $19 million project.
“The new Orange Airport terminal has planned seating for 240 passengers, which is some seven times the seating capacity of the aircraft servicing Orange,” Rex’s submission said.
The council’s intention to cater for new aircraft technology, increased passenger numbers and increased opportunities for additional charter services was not justifiable in a toxic aviation climate, according to the regional carrier.
“It is the airlines and their customers that generate the demand, not the airport and the airports need to cater for the demand,” the submission said.
“Far from realising its pipedream, Orange may face losing some of its Rex flights as the demand is deteriorating.”
Rex also raised concerns about landing fees, which now sit at $16.73 a passenger.
“When Parkes Airport and Orange Airport are compared, both are serviced by Rex as the sole operator with Parkes Airport receiving three return Saab 340 services each weekday and Orange Airport receiving four return Saab 340 services each weekday,“ the submission said.
“It does not make sense that Rex is charged more than 300 per cent more to operate to Orange than Parkes.”
However, OCC airport advisory committee chair and deputy mayor Chris Gryllis said Rex had never raised concerns about overdevelopment of the airport during the planning and design phase.
“Rex made no mention of what they are claiming now and I don’t know what their intention is,” he said.
“After the event, they are telling us we’re doing the wrong thing - I don’t accept that.
“This will serve for the next 50 years - it’s no good creating something and five years later having to update it.”
Cr Gryllis said the head tax was only intended to cover costs, not to make a profit.
“I have a problem with subsidising the operations of Rex,” he said.