Victor Pody shot this Rex Saab 340B, VH-ZLA
Rex has announced that tickets are now on sale ahead of its planned launch of twice-daily return flights between Melbourne and Devonport next month.
The route joins a growing list of those at the heart of a fiery dispute between Rex and rival Qantas, with Melbourne-Devonport notably being only serviced by Qantas prior to Rex’s announcement.
Beginning on 19 August, Rex is scheduled to perform 12 return services per week between the two cities, while Qantas will continue to put on 27 return services per week.
Rex said last month that its move into Melbourne-Devonport was “made possible” by its earlier motion to scrap its Melbourne-Albury service – a decision that it said was required due to increasing competition from Qantas, which entered the previously Rex-exclusive route in March 2021.
“The economics are evident and we believe we’ll be carrying more than twice the number of passengers to Devonport than we did to Albury with the same amount of resources deployed,” Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said in June.
Rex said its new twice-daily flights on weekdays mean that Melburnians looking to travel to Devonport will “finally” have an option to land in the Tasmanian city before 9am, with Qantas’ first daily flight touching down each morning around 10am.
“We have been solicited for years to end the suffering of the local community, which has endured almost two decades of high prices and unreliable services with QantasLink, the incumbent monopoly operator,” said Rex general manager of network strategy Warrick Lodge.
“We are immensely pleased that today we are finally able to respond to their pleas.”
“For the first time ever, Rex’s trademark and high sought-after Community Fare Scheme will be brought to Devonport, priced at an affordable $149 each way,” Lodge added.
Qantas currently offers flights from Melbourne to Devonport on 19 August from $199 one-way.
Lodge explained that Rex’s predecessor Kendell Airlines had previously serviced Melbourne-Devonport between 1989 and 2005.
“So it is somewhat of a nostalgic return for us,” he said. “August 2022 is a milestone month for Rex as it will mark out 20th birthday, and it is fitting that we are able to commence the Devonport service in this month as part of our anniversary celebrations.”
The news marks the latest move in an ongoing back-and-forth battle between the Rex and Qantas over network expansion, as both airlines increasingly encroach into routes previously only serviced by its rival.
A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Aviation: “Unlike Rex we welcome competition on the routes we fly.
“Just as we have for decades, we’ll continue providing a high quality service to the people of Devonport with all-inclusive fares and lounge access for Frequent Flyers.”
Meanwhile, Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said, “This new Rex route Melbourne to Devonport carried pre-COVID close to 150,000 annual passengers and we have been courted by the local community for over two years because of the price gouging by Qantas, the sole carrier on the route, and because of the very poor service levels,” Sharp said.
“We did not respond earlier to the pleas of the community as we had limited resources then and we wanted to give priority to our existing network.
“Qantas’ predatory attacks on Rex’s network mean that we no longer can support the marginal routes and we need to channel our resources to the biggest regional routes where the financial returns are much better.”
A Qantas spokesperson said Rex’s claims of “predatory” behaviour are “just ridiculous” and added that “Rex’s standard approach whenever it withdraws from a route is to blame Qantas”.
Qantas also pointed to the fact that the ACCC has said it will take “no further action” in an earlier investigation into Qantas’ alleged anti-competitive behaviour after Rex made a formal complaint.
“The Qantas Group has launched more than 50 new domestic and regional routes over the past two years, only 10 of which have been operated by Rex,” Qantas said.