Qantas targets another Rex-serviced route with new Sydney-Orange flights

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

The Flying Kangaroo has taken another step on its recent expansion into regional Australia.

From 1 May, Qantas will begin flights between Orange and Sydney, with 11 return flights between both cities, adding more than 45,000 seats on the route each year.

QantasLink CEO John Gissing said Orange is a thriving place with an increasingly diverse economy.

“After years of locals calling for the flying kangaroo, the iconic red tail will touch down at Orange Airport for the first time in May,” he said.

Currently, the route is serviced by its sole-provider: Regional Express Airlines. Qantas’ announcement was made just days after Rex said it was lodging a complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that the national carrier was abusing its market power on regional routes.

This “anti-competitive behaviour”, according to Rex, has seen three routes become uneconomical for the regional carrier, including an Adelaide-Kangaroo Island service, with the airline exiting the route on 1 July.

The regional carrier is now preparing to present a “supplementary submission” to the ACCC with “further evidence” of the alleged abuse of market power by Qantas.

Following Rex’s announced withdrawal from the KI service, Qantas revealed it would more than double its flights on the route, with QantasLink to operate 12 return services per week throughout the year.

At an Adelaide Airport ceremony, with South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham in attendance, QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the national carrier wanted to support Kangaroo Island’s recovery from the devastating bushfires.

“Now is the time to be supporting Kangaroo Island, not deserting it,” Gissing said.

“Growing demand” for premium service on Sydney-Orange route: Qantas

Furthermore, of the Orange route Gissing indicated there is “growing demand” for a premium airline to connect business and leisure travellers between Sydney and the city.

“These additional flights will make it easier for Sydney residents and domestic and international tourists to discover one of NSW’s most beautiful regions … As part of our commitment to the route we will also promote Orange on a global stage, across Qantas’ domestic and international markets and to the airline’s 13 million frequent flyers.”

Rex, however, maintains Qantas is being anti-competitive.

A Rex spokeswoman told Travel Weekly: “We believe that Qantas’ recent actions do not reflect competition on merits which the law requires, but rather an attempt to abuse their dominant market power and financial strength.”

As the earlier sole carrier on the route, Rex said it would be catastrophic for the community of Orange if the regional airline pulls out of its weekly slots to Sydney Airport.

She said the airline would “be loathed” to depart from the Orange route, “but will have to do so if the Orange business community is not supportive of Rex”.

“Qantas has no slots during the peak business demand periods and are only offering unwanted fringe slots to another community,” she said, claiming: “the Orange business community will suffer enormously.”

The announcement of Qantas’ entry to the route was welcomed as a major boost for the region by Orange Mayor Reg Kidd, who said it was a “vote of confidence in the region’s future”.

To celebrate its new service, Qantas is offering special fares of $129 on flights between Orange and Sydney, for travel between 1 May 2020 and 25 October 2020.

Orange is Qantas’ 13th destination in NSW after Sydney, Albury, Armidale, Ballina (Byron Bay), Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Lord Howe Island, Moree, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Tamworth, and Wagga Wagga.