IN just the latest skirmish in a long and acrimonious relationship Orange councillors are again questioning Regional Express’s commitment to the city.
It is a strange call to make at a time when the city is investing heavily in an airport upgrade that should serve the flying public for years to come.
Air travellers know that most Rex fares from Orange to Sydney are dearer than Rex fares from Dubbo to the Sydney.
What they now know following Tuesday night’s council meeting is that Orange passenger numbers are declining and questions are being asked in council ranks about Rex’s commitment to delivering value for Orange travellers.
Mayor John Davis told the meeting Rex appeared to be more interested in protecting its margin than growing passenger numbers with cheaper tickets.
The comment will ruffle feathers at Rex management, which loves to cite the council’s “high” passenger landing taxes as an unnecessary cost for air travellers.
Rex’s current complaint is with the size and cost of the airport upgrade under way at Spring Hill. Rex earned the ire of councillors and staff when it made some quite exaggerated claims about the size of the expansion in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into regional aviation sitting at Dubbo last month.
Unfortunately, the tit-for-tat exchange is nothing new.
Two organisations that have an obvious interest in growing air passenger numbers and providing the best possible facilities for those passengers can’t seem to get past an historic falling out over passenger taxes.
The council working party charged with finding a way to build bridges with Rex has its work cut out after the comments in council on Tuesday night and Rex’s many shots at the council over the years.
Unlike Dubbo, Orange is just close enough to Sydney to make driving or catching a bus or train an option. But these options can never replace a reliable and affordable air service.
That should be starting point in the search for some clear air.