DESPITE posting a record profit of $35.1 million last financial year Regional Express Holdings Ltd (Rex) management says it has no plans to increase the number of return flights between Orange and Sydney.
Rex general manager of network strategy Warrick Lodge said the airline had already increased the number of daily return flights from four to five in March. This gave the route an average seat occupancy of 60 per cent, on par with the airline’s national average of 59.6 per cent.
“That means Orange is in line with the national average so we’re not looking to increase the services,” Mr Lodge said.
Mr Lodge said he was so disappointed in the recent increase in airport charges imposed by Orange City Council that the airline had vowed to watch the occupancy rates in Orange “very closely”.
Mr Lodge said council’s decision to increase its passenger tax by 45 cents to $15.95 “couldn’t have come at a worse time”.
He said the increase in the passenger tax represented an increase in running costs at a time when the airline’s already had to swallow the introduction of the carbon tax, the removal of the en route rebate scheme and additional security charges at some airports.
“This additional tax just translates to an increase in operator costs,” Mr Lodge said.
“Council might view the head (passenger) tax as a small increase .... but it adds up.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
Mr Lodge said the passenger tax would boost council coffers by around $1 million a year.
In contrast to its relationship with Orange City Council, Mr Lodge said the airline had a good working relationship with Bathurst Regional Council.
“We have regular discussions with Bathurst council who recognise we’ve got to work together to make their service viable,” he said.
Mr Lodge said while seat occupancy rates on the Bathurst to Sydney route were “below average”, the council and Rex were working to ensure the service was retained.
However, he conceded that in an environment of rising running costs it was increasingly difficult to service smaller routes such as Bathurst and Parkes.