Rex to cease passenger service to Kangaroo Island from April 6

Rex delivers newspapers to Kangaroo Island.
Rex delivers newspapers to Kangaroo Island.

Regional Express airlines has announced it will shut down its air services around Australia, including Kangaroo Island, by April 6.

Rex had already decided to withdraw services from KI on June 31, but it appears this latest announcement will see the service end sooner.

Qantas meanwhile previously stated it would step up from July 1 after Rex left and expand its service to seven days a week.

But a Qantas spokesperson said today, March 23, that the airline last week announced severe capacity cuts as a result of the coronavirus.

And at this stage the three flights per week service to Kangaroo Island would remain in place regardless of the Rex decision.

KI Mayor Michael Pengilly said he remained in contact with Qantas SA representatives to ensure there was adequate air service to the Island regardless of the current health emergency.

The Rex decision follows an emergency board meeting on Sunday, March 22.

Rex says operations, with the exception of Queensland where the services are underwritten by the Queensland Government, will cease with effect from April 6 unless the Federal and State Governments are willing to underwrite the losses.

In addition to RPT services in Queensland, other activities of the Rex Group not to be affected include Ambulance Victoria fixed-wing air ambulance services, charter contracts with mining companies, freight services and pilot training at its pilot academies in Victoria and New South Wales.

Rex's deputy chairman John Sharp AM said, "Rex is supportive of the strong measures taken by the Federal and State Governments such as the shutting of State borders and imposing a lockdown within the States as well as discouraging all non-essential travel. These measures will definitely reduce the number of infections from COVID-19, prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed and save many lives."

"However, tragically for the airline industry, this means that we can expect the year-on-year reduction of passenger numbers to nosedive to around 80 per cent from the 60 per cent we are experiencing today. There is a tipping point in the airline business beyond which it will no longer be sustainable to operate reduced services."

"We believe that with only 20 per cent of our passenger numbers left we have reached that point and the Rex Group has decided that the quasi suspension of all services at this stage presents the best option to preserve its cash."

"The Federal Government has acted swiftly by promising a rescue package to the airlines of $715 Million. However, the direct benefit to Rex from this package is only $1 million a month which is grossly insufficient to cover the $10 million a month we expect to lose running the heavily reduced schedule we announced last week."

"The US Government has put in place a rescue package of USD$50 Billion for a total airline revenue in the USA of USD$240 billion - about 20 per cent of one year's worth of revenue. Australia's total airline revenue is AUD$23 billion indicating that an equivalent effort in Australia would require a rescue package in the order of AUD$4.6 billion instead of the AUD$715 million proposed."

"Regional air services provide an invaluable and priceless contribution to the socio-economic well-being of local communities throughout regional and remote Australia.

State and local Governments should be leading the charge in extreme times like these to assist regional carriers rather than leaving it to the Federal Government.

So far the State Governments have not tabled any concrete proposals although their latest decisions of closing the borders and lockdowns will simply further decimate what remains of regional air travellers. Local councils are also a true disappointment with only two councils having proposed any meaningful assistance for Rex."

"If an assistance package of sufficient magnitude and viability can be negotiated by the end of the week, Rex may be able to reconsider its plans to suspend services. Failure to achieve any traction in this regard will see regional communities lose their air services for many months ahead and even after this is all over, we are afraid that some of the more marginal communities will no longer have an air service."

Passengers with bookings after the April 6, 2020 must wait until after March 27 before writing in via Rex's website to put their bookings on credit for a future flight. No refunds will be offered as is the standard practice of all airlines during this crisis.