By Mike Mangano
Qantas To Increase Regional Service
Regional airline QantasLink this week announced it will be expanding its services to the regional Australian town of Broken Hill. The move, which will begin on June 21, 2022, will see Qantas’ regional arm add a third-weekly Sydney-Broken Hill service to its current twice-weekly.
Having started the service in April this year, QantasLink aims to eventually increase the service to five-weekly return flights by November 1, 2022. Utilizing its fleet of Dash 8 Q300s, the airline has allowances for up to 50 passengers per flight, following what it calls “strong support from locals and visitors.” Flights to the outback town of 18,000 have already been booked out, with QantasLink CEO John Gissing stating, “Our bookings looking ahead are great which gives us the confidence to add in another service to offer more convenience for both locals and visitors.”
QantasLink will also look to add additional flights for local events and the September school holiday period, with an eye to cement the routes with the town. “We are proud to serve Broken Hill and as a regional airline born in the outback, we understand the importance of connecting remote communities with major centers. We’d like to thank our customers in Broken Hill for giving us a go,” Gissing said.
The route, already serviced by its competitor Rex, is the latest battleground in what appears to be a regional-route rivalry. Rex, a long-time provider of Australian regional services, offers its own Sydney-Broken Hill service with five weekly return flights – a number which QantasLink aims to match.
Having already closed several other regional routes – citing, in part, what it calls Qantas’ “unconscionable” behavior – Rex has been unable to maintain some long-held routes after Qantas recently added its own service to nine of Rex’s. The regional expansion by Qantas, increasing competition with Rex, comes off the back of Rex’s own domestic expansion and new partnership with US airline Delta.
Purchase of Alliance Under Scrutiny
In addition to Rex’s claims of Qantas’ anti-competitive actions, Australia’s competition and consumer watchdog is considering submissions regarding Qantas’ purchase of Alliance Airlines. Despite already owning 20%, Qantas plans to buy the remaining shares of Alliance Airlines, leading some to question the outcome of the deal and its impact on airline competition in Australia.
Alliance, which primarily operates charter flights, also leases aircraft, parts, and maintenance services to other Australian operators. The purchase, if approved, could be a strong step in the direction of the Qantas-dominated domestic airline industry.
The watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, seeks to understand whether sufficient competition in Australia can be maintained. It will also investigate the impacts on price and quality of services, and the “impact if Alliance were to cease providing aircraft leasing or associated aviation services to other airlines after the proposed acquisition.”
Submissions to the ACCC closed on June 3, with the Commission to announce its findings by the provisional date of August 4, 2022.