Australian carrier Rex announced plans to launch a new regional route from Melbourne (MEL) and issued another broadside against Qantas, insisting the flag carrier is engaging in “price gouging” on domestic routes.
Rex will start flying between MEL and Devonport (DPO) in the Australian state of Tasmania from August.
Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said in a statement that the new route is made possible because the carrier is shifting resources from the MEL-Albury (ABX) route it dropped at the end of May. The carrier blamed the withdrawal on what it termed Qantas’ “predatory pricing” on the route.
Sharp said Rex is moving away from “marginal” regional routes to focus on more popular routes.
“Qantas’ predatory attacks on Rex’s network mean that we no longer can support the marginal routes and we need to channel our resources to the biggest regional routes where the financial returns are much better,” Sharp said.
He said “close to 150,000 annual passengers” flew the MEL-DPO route prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have been courted by the local [Devonport] community for over two years because of the price gouging by Qantas, the sole carrier on the route, and because of the very poor service levels,” Sharp said.
Qantas has pushed back hard against what it calls Rex’s “false claims,” adding in a recent statement: “Rex’s standard approach whenever it withdraws from a route is to blame others, usually Qantas.”
Regarding the MEL-ABX service, the flag carrier said: “Rex blamed Qantas when withdrawing from Melbourne-Albury despite Rex operating 40% more seats on the route.”
Qantas said its “services have been welcomed by regional communities as providing competition and flexibility.”
Sharp said the MEL-DPO route had not been served by Rex previously because the carrier “had limited resources then and we wanted to give priority to our existing network.” He added: “The economics are evident and we believe we’ll be carrying more than twice the number of passengers to Devonport than we did to Albury with the same amount of resources deployed.”
DPO will become the third Tasmanian destination served by Rex. The airline said it will release more details about the MEL-DPO service in coming weeks, presumably including flight frequencies.
Rex operates a fleet of 60 Saab 340s and six Boeing 737-800s to 62 domestic destinations.