The inaugural Adelaide-Brisbane Rex Airlines service was launched this morning, with the first flight to take off this afternoon from Brisbane.
Rex said the new route will provide an additional 124,000 seats between the two cities per year.
The state government said 875,000 people flew between Brisbane and Adelaide each year pre-COVID, with the sunshine state SA’s third largest domestic market and worth almost $500 million per year to the state economy.
“Increased flight capacity is a great result for tourism and investment in SA,” Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said.
“Strong growth in interstate and international expenditure over the year helped drive the state’s visitor economy from $6.1 billion at June 2022 to the current level of $9.9 billion, an increase of $3.8 billion in just 12 months.
“It is essential that we continue to strengthen our relationships with leading airline providers and pursue new opportunities for South Australia to secure new airlines, increase the number of flights and reinstate flights that link South Australia with key tourism markets interstate and international business hubs.”
Adelaide Airport managing director Brenton Cox said the new service would strengthen aviation links between the two cities.
“Rex has made an immediate impression on Australia’s domestic market, and today’s launch comes on the back of strong demand we’ve already witnessed on services from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney,” Cox said.
“Rex has long been a strong supporter of the South Australian aviation market and we’re delighted that its domestic expansion is making a tangible difference and offering our customers more choice.”
Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO Gert-Jan de Graaff added the new service “restores capacity to Brisbane and Adelaide to pre-pandemic levels”.
“When you combine Rex’s regional footprint across Queensland and South Australia with Brisbane Airport’s vast network, this is a great result for travellers from two states,” he said.
Earlier this year Rex Airlines scrapped its Whyalla to Adelaide flights, blaming the decision on the regional city’s council which it accused of wanting to impose a “devious and underhanded” passenger screening security charge on the route.
Whyalla Mayor Phil Stone labelled the loss of Rex’s service as “a huge blow for our community”.
“For Rex to use council as a scapegoat for this decision and suggest it was ‘underhanded’ is quite frankly unfair, as we have been having ongoing discussions regarding this situation for some time,” he said.
In 2018, Rex dumped its Adelaide to Mount Gambier route after “unfair” complaints about the service.
At the time, the airline said there were issues with a “crippling pilot shortage” and said it would scale back its services “to better utilise the very scarce resources”.
Rex’s news follows Qatar Airways confirming additional capacity into Adelaide earlier this month. Singapore Airlines will also add an extra four flights per week into SA over the coming summer.
A service to Indonesia from Adelaide run by Batik Air Indonesia will begin on November 8, and the airline has announced four new weekly services from Denpasar to Adelaide from next month too.
VietJet will also launch five services into SA per week later this year – the first time any Vietnamese carrier has included Adelaide as a regular destination.
Qantas defends allegations of misleading ticket sales
The news comes as Qantas today said it would fight allegations of misleading conduct levelled by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after being accused of selling tickets for already-cancelled flights.
The airline said while it “fully accepts it let customers down during the post-COVID restart”, including with high cancellation rates, the consumer watchdog’s case ignored the realities of the aviation industry.
All customers on cancelled flights were offered alternative flights or refunds with no “fee for service”, Qantas said in a media statement on Monday.
The airline has filed its defence to the ACCC’s case in the Federal Court.
The ACCC claimed the carrier advertised tickets for 8000 flights that had already been cancelled and that it engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by selling the tickets for an average of more than two weeks.
It alleged Qantas didn’t notify existing ticket holders for 10,000 flights that they had been cancelled for an average of 18 days, and up to 48 days, between May and July 2022.
Qantas cancelled a quarter of its flights between May and July 2022, the watchdog said.
In its defence, Qantas said airlines cannot guarantee specific flight times.
“As we’ve said from the start of this case, we fully acknowledge that the period examined by the ACCC was extremely difficult for our customers,” Qantas said.
“Restarting flying after the COVID shutdowns proved a challenge for the whole industry, with staff shortages and supply chain issues coinciding with huge pent-up demand.
“Qantas cancelled thousands of flights as a result and there were many unacceptable delays.”
For Qantas, the news comes after the airline’s chairman Richard Goyder announced he would resign earlier this month alongside two more board members.
Goyder will retire “prior to the Annual General Meeting in late 2024” as part of board renewal plans designed to refresh the reputation of the embattled airline.
It followed the resignation of former CEO Alan Joyce, calls from the Australian Shareholders Association last month for the chairman to step down and comes as Qantas is under the microscope of a Senate committee hearing into the role the airline played in a decision to knock back Qatar Airway’s application to double its flights into Australia.
The airline has suffered a series of reputational blows recently, including a High Court ruling the carrier had illegally sacked almost 1700 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
– with AAP
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