Regional Express to cut Merimbula flights due to feud with council

Regional Express (Rex) has declared it will be reducing its Merimbula services after a disagreement with Bega Valley Shire Council regarding a proposed increase to Merimbula Airport’s Passenger Landing Fee. 

On top of this Rex has put council on notice saying that any increase of head tax beyond the CPI will result in proportional reduction in services and an increase in air fares.

In a letter sent to Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kristy McBain, Rex’s general manager of network strategy and sales Warrick Lodge said the airline was “insulted” by the way they have been treated by council. 

Mr Lodge said Rex only learnt of the proposed Merimbula airport head tax increase thanks to a conversation with Merimbula News Weekly. 

“It is an insult to Rex to receive notification via the media and it is an even greater affront to receive your letter dated 13 June offering us the opportunity to make a submission to council by COB 14 June 2017,” Mr Lodge wrote to Cr McBain. 

“Our chairman now considers the Merimbula council leadership to be two-faced, lacking in integrity, and personally disrespectful to our chairman and the office he represents.

“I have been instructed to stop any initiatives to expand services and instead work on reducing Merimbula’s services.”

The News Weekly contacted Rex about the Merimbula Airport Draft Fees and Charges on May 30, which Mr Lodge said was only 24 hours after the Rex board had given in-principle agreement to expand services from Merimbula to both Sydney and Melbourne. 

“This was subject to entering into a suitable partnership agreement with council. Our chairman had then directed that Rex’s scarce resources be prioritised to Merimbula on the back of the solemn undertakings by the mayor during the discussions that were held in March this year,” he said.

The proposed Rex scheduling initiatives would have added around 16,000 annual seats to Merimbula airport which only has around 56,000 annual passengers.

Despite Rex’s obvious outrage, Cr McBain said she hopes to resolve the issue and repair the relationship between council and the airline. 

She said council did not intend to insult Rex. 

“It was an oversight on my behalf that these fees and charges didn’t get to them sooner,” Cr McBain said. 

“We definitely want to work with Rex to continue to increase passenger numbers through Merimbula Airport as increased numbers offers a great economic benefit to Merimbula and the entire Bega Valley Shire.”

“We are dedicated to working towards making sure the partnership between council and Rex comes to fruition.” 

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