Qantas’ incursion onto regional routes in South Australia continues. On Monday, the airline began flying to Mount Gambier from both Melbourne and Adelaide. Qantas says it will add 500 seats a week to the regional South Australian city. It is also the first time competitor Regional Express (Rex) has faced competition at Mount Gambier Airport.
Qantas puts an extra 500 seats a week into Mount Gambier
Qantas is sending one of its QantasLink 50-seat Q300 turboprop aircraft to Mount Gambier. Out of Melbourne, there is a mid-morning departure five days a week. Flying time to Mount Gambier, approximately 430 kilometers distant, is just over one hour. The return flight to Melbourne leaves at 14:15.
But instead of sitting on the apron in Mount Gambier for several hours, the aircraft continues on to Adelaide. QF2253 leaves Mount Gambier five days a week at 11:00 to arrive in Adelaide in time for lunch. After spending less than an hour on the ground, the aircraft heads back to Mount Gambier, touching down in time to form the 14:15 service through to Melbourne.
“The addition of Mount Gambier to our network will support the growing demand we’re seeing and help deliver a boost for local businesses,” said QantasLink CEO John Gissing.
Rex argues Mount Gambier cannot sustain two airlines
Located on the coast midway between Melbourne and Adelaide, Mount Gambier is a busy service center for the surrounding districts. Around 27,500 people live in the area. Traditionally, the town has been Rex’s turf. The smaller carrier has long-operated Saab 340 flights to Mount Gambier from both Adelaide and Melbourne.
When Qantas announced its intention to bring some competition to the town, Rex said there just wasn’t the population to support two airlines. In February, Rex released traffic figures on both routes to Mount Gambier from 2019. 36,000 passengers flew between Melbourne and Mount Gambier and 49,000 passengers flew between Adelaide and Mount Gambier in 2019.
“The Rex Board has decided to stand its ground in these routes even if inevitably both carriers
will be making significant losses,” Rex said in a statement at the time.
With numbers like this, Rex’s argument that the town couldn’t support two airlines seemed to have some merit. But QantasLink’s John Gissing says his airline doesn’t enter new routes unless they think there’s money to be made.
“We know that extra capacity and lower fares increases overall travel demand, which is good news for the regional communities we will be operating to,” he said.
Both Qantas and Rex happy to tackle monopoly routes
Mount Gambier is the second South Australian regional destination where Qantas has taken on Rex. Qantas has also commenced flights between Adelaide and Kangaroo Island and Melbourne and Kangaroo Island. Rex was so unimpressed, they threatened to walk off the Adelaide- Kangaroo Island route. They’ve since reversed that decision, having secured further government funding to keep operating the route.
At the same time Qantas started its Mount Gambier services, the airline also commenced QantasLink services between Melbourne and Wagga Wagga and Melbourne and Albury. Again, both are routes Rex had enjoyed a monopoly on.
The competition is causing Rex some heartburn. But you shouldn’t think it’s all about the big airline picking on the little airline. Rex is more than happy to have a crack at routes where Qantas is the key player. Rex has recently begun 737-800 services between Sydney and Melbourne and is soon to start flying between Sydney and Canberra, a route Qantas currently has a monopoly on.
The smaller airline is about to start flying between Sydney and Port Macquarie, Sydney and Coffs Harbour, Sydney and the Gold Coast, and Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Rex’s expansion has already claimed one victim. After adding Coffs Harbour to its network, Virgin Australia said it was withdrawing its daily flight there from Sydney.
What do you think? Can Mount Gambier support two airlines? Post a comment and let us know.