Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Winners and Losers From the Queensland Government's Announcement on Regulated Regional Routes This Week

This week, the Queensland Government announced the winning tenders to operate the subsidised regulated regional routes from the start of 2015.

Quite clearly, the big winner in the announcement is Regional Express (REX) who have picked up three routes to add to their existing two, taking them to five regional Queensland routes.

File photo taken by Brendan Berry  ©

REX maintained their existing 'Northern routes:
Townsville - Winton - Longreach (Northern 1)
Townsville - Hughenden - Richmond - Julia Creek - Mt Isa (Northern 2)

But they have also added the following three routes:
Brisbane - Toowoomba (Wellcamp) - St George - Cunnamulla - Thargomindah (Western 1)
Brisbane - Toowoomba (Wellcamp) - Charleville - Quilpie - Windorah - Birdsville - Bedourie - Bouila - Mt Isa (Western 2)
Cairns - Normanton - Mornington Island - Burketown - Doomadgee - Mt Isa (Gulf)

All five of the routes will be operated by REX SAAB 340B turbo-prop aircraft, with the two Western routes operating through the new Brisbane West / Wellcamp Airport near Toowoomba.

The addition of the two 'Western' services sees REX return to operating scheduled services at Brisbane Airport after some absence.  They will however, continue to operate Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) and freight flight out of Brisbane.

QantasLink hold onto their two regulated routes;
Brisbane - Roma - Charleville (Central 1)
Brisbane - Barcaldine/Blackall - Longreach (Central 2)

These routes will continue to be operated by Qantaslinks Dash 8 turbo-prop aircraft, with plans announced to upgrade the aircraft to Dash-8-Q400 aircraft on 'Central 2' and Dash-8-Q300 aircraft on 'Central 1'.

The big loser from this weeks announcement is no doubt, Skytrans Airlines, who have lost almost all of their regulated routes (to REX).  This comes soon after their loss of their Toowoomba - Sydney service which is ceasing due to the introduction of the new Qantaslink Dash-8-Q400 Toowoomba (Wellcamp) - Sydney services.

File photo

Skytrans still operate their own services around Cape York and on the Cairns - Mt Isa route as well as their FIFO charters, mostly out of Brisbane.  The Cape York network is as follows;

The Lockhart River, Coen, Arurkun services which operates the following different patterns on different days
Cairns - Aurukun - Coen - Lockhart River - Cairns (M)
Cairns - Coen - Lockhart River - Aurukun - Cairns (W, F)
Cairns - Lockhart River - Aurukun - Cairns (Tu, Th)

Mt Isa services
Cairns - Mt Isa (M, Tu, Th, F)
Mt Isa - Cairns (M, W, Th, F)

The Edward River (Pormpuraaw) and Kowanyama service
Cairns - Edward River - Kowanyama - Cairns (M, Th)
Cairns - Kowanyama - Edward River - Cairns (Tu, F)

The Cape route to Bamaga
Cairns - Bamaga - Cairns (M to F)

The loss of the Western 1 & 2 contracts will see the end of Skytrans operating scheduled services from Brisbane.

Another loser in all of this is Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) who have been trying for some time to get access into the Queensland regional routes, and have often been thwarted by the regulated route structure.  VARA tendered but did not win any of the available routes.  There only options for possible extensions to regional Queensland flying comes from existing routes or the below (now) deregulated routes.  Time will tell if previous threats made by Virgin CEO John Borghetti to the Queensland Government regarding implications of the lack of access to the Queensland regions come to pass.

All existing contracts end on Wednesday 31 December 2014 with new contracts beginning on Thursday 1 January 2015.

At the same time the following regulated routes, currently operated by Qantaslink will be deregulated and opened to competition;
Townsville - Cloncurry - Mt Isa
Cairns - Horn Island
Cairns - Weipa

Information gathered from the Brisbane Times newspaper article (HERE) and the NZ Aviation Notes Blog

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