Response to op ed by Regional Express deputy chairman John Sharp – 17 October 2019
Regional Express (Rex) deputy chairman John Sharp’s op ed in regional newspapers today once again unfairly attacks regional airport operators.
Mr Sharp has used vague and misleading allegations against regional airports in the absence of any real argument. The fact is, many regional airports are operating at a loss, leaving local ratepayers to subsidise the profits of successful airlines like Rex. While regional airports struggle to make ends meet, Rex increased its profit in 2018-19.
While Mr Sharp complains of rising costs, most regional airports have reduced or maintained their airport charges in real terms over a five-year period. This would simply not be possible if Mr Sharp’s scurrilous claims about ‘over investment’ were true. Instead, this demonstrates a track record of careful and sensible management of these critical community assets, in the face of rising costs of compliance.
It is Rex who wields significant market power in the regions where it operates. In January 2018, Rex was the sole operator on 78 of the 92 routes it operated. It has in the past used this market power to lead public and unedifying media campaigns as a negotiating tactic, threatening to reduce or withdraw services in a bid to lower airport charges.
Just this month, Rex wrote to residents of one community threatening to redeploy all of its 61 weekly flights on a successful route because it did not like concepts discussed in an airport draft master plan. This is belligerent behaviour that gambles with the future of regional economies.
The fact is, Mr Sharp is calling for change that was never proposed for regional airports. The model he supports has been thoroughly discredited by the nation’s best economic minds. We should all be focused on ensuring a sustainable and vibrant regional aviation network to support our communities. We think Rex’s customers living in the regions would want that too.
17 October 2019