Free Spirit Airlines (FSA) has set its sights on the Merimbula to Sydney route after member for Bega Andrew Constance expressed his desire to remove the monopoly enjoyed by Regional Express (Rex).
Mr Constance, also the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, said in December he was looking at deregulating regional routes and FSA managing director Roman Badov said FSA would jump on the chance to expand their services.
“We have been operating out of Merimbula for around five months now and we have received a lot of inquiries from customers regarding the Merimbula to Sydney route.
“This expansion is subject to route de-regulation and we have been in contact with the minister's office on this subject,” Mr Badov said.
“The public benefit resulting from this would be immense. Through de-regulation and a new operator entering this market, airfares are likely to be reduced by around 30 per cent on average.”
The 35,000 passenger a year route is currently protected as a Rex-only route.
Mr Constance said he was “looking to deregulate regional routes” because it was an impediment.
“Merimbula regional airport plays a crucial role in the long-term viability and growth of the local Bega economy, enabling local tourism and supporting emergency services,” Mr Constance said.
A Regional Express Airlines spokeswoman referred the News Weekly to previous comments the company had made about the routes on which it has sole rights.
In a submission to the NSW inquiry into regional aviation services in 2014, the company said: “Rex believes that the NSW regulatory regime is an obstacle for air operators working in partnership with the local councils and communities and the associated red tape is a disincentive for airlines particularly in the context of the license regime having no meaningful outcomes.”
In 2012 after being awarded the Merimbula to Sydney route for another five years, Rex’s general manager of network strategy and sales, Warrick Lodge said “we have called on the NSW government to discontinue this route licence regime as we believe that such a scheme distorts free competition without achieving any practical outcome”.
Mr Badov said if the Merimbula to Sydney route is deregulated, FSA would have to look at expanding their single aircraft fleet.
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