Quest for friendly skies: council wants discussions with disgruntled Rex

TALKS NEEDED: Councillor Jeff Whitton says Orange councillors and Regional Express management need to meet face-to-face to discuss concerns about the Orange to Sydney route. Photo: JUDE KEOGH. 0815airport1

TALKS NEEDED: Councillor Jeff Whitton says Orange councillors and Regional Express management need to meet face-to-face to discuss concerns about the Orange to Sydney route. Photo: JUDE KEOGH. 0815airport1

REGIONAL Express management has publicly refused to be the “whipping boy of a failed council”, however Orange councillors believe face-to-face talk would lead to a more positive outcome. 

In a letter to the Central Western Daily, Rex network strategy and sales general manager Warrick Lodge noted the council’s resolution to form a working party to talk about fare prices, but only if council ceased “its self-serving politics” and started to “genuinely care for the community that elected it”, regarding what it saw as overspending on upgrades to the airport. 

Councillor Jeff Whitton was disappointed with Mr Lodge’s comments, reiterating councillors were acting following complaints from the community.

“Council certainly isn’t trying to make Rex a whipping boy,” he said.

“We are trying to reach out and come together to say how can we work together to allow a business to achieve its objectives and allow the community to be able to travel from a business level and from a family level on this airline?

“Having a discussion through letters and emails or through the media is no way to conduct a relationship.”

Cr Whitton said part of the reason Orange had sustained one airline for so long was because councillors did not seek competitors. 

“Even Brindabella came to us,” he said.

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“Rex provides an excellent service to this city, that’s not in question and never has been, the issue here is the cost of the ticket.”

A Rex spokeswoman said if councillors agreed to lower the $16.73 passenger tax, it would show in the fares. 

“Rex will be willing to lower fares by $2 for every $1 reduction in head tax,” she said.

Councillors have found a sympathetic ear with Dubbo mayor Matthew Dickerson, with Dubbo City Council recently taken to court over baggage scanning fees.

“What you see in Orange with Rex is what you see everywhere,” he said.

With Rex management agreeing to lower its cheapest fare in Bathurst to match Dubbo’s cheapest offering, Bathurst mayor Gary Rush said meaningful discussions were the key to a good relationship. 

After competition with QantasLink reduced prices on the Dubbo to Sydney route to about $40 cheaper than the cheapest airfare from Orange, Rex management declined to comment on its profit margins for Dubbo and Orange, only saying Orange’s base fares were similar to other regional ports and it made $3-$4 profit a passenger across the network. 

A QantasLink spokeswoman said the airline had no plans to start services to Orange at this stage.

“However, we’re always reviewing our network for opportunities,” she said.

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