Kangaroo Island locals, rebuilding their lives after devastating bushfires, have been rocked by the axing of their twice daily air service.
Regional Express says it’s been forced out of the market by Qantas, but the island’s mayor wants Rex to reconsider.
“It’s absolutely a kick in the guts at a time when we didn’t need it,” Mayor Michael Pengilly told 9News.
Mr Pengilly said he received a phone call from the Regional Express chairman only this morning, advising him of their decision to leave.
Regional Express has been flying the Adelaide to Kingscote route for 30 years. At present it flies two services, daily.
Kangaroo Island residents are disappointed.
“I think it’s very bad news for the island, because Rex provided this service regularly, which was good for everybody who had businesses or had to come in and out to Adelaide,” said Matthias Burri.
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall is also very disappointed.
“It’s extraordinarily disappointing news that Rex, who have been travelling to and from Kangaroo Island for more than 30 years, have taken this step … this is a major blow for people on the island,” he said.
Mr Pengilly has called on the Premier to lobby for the return of the service.
“I would like to think that the government could act on our behalf of Rex and maybe convince them to maintain their service,” he said.
Mr Marshall said the the most important thing was to make sure there was still a continuity of flights between the island and the mainland.
“So Qantas is continuing to fly onto the island, I want to reassure people that if they want to fly on and off Kangaroo Island there will be seats,” Mr Marshall said.
Rex blames Qantas for its decision to cancel the route, and it’s complained to the ACCC, claiming Qantas dumped excessive capacity on the K-I route.
A Qantas spokesperson said that Rex has a track record for throwing tantrums when things aren’t going according to their plan.
“Not long ago, they blamed us for the fact their pilots were applying for jobs with Qantas. Now it’s because we’ve added services and given regional consumers more choice,” said the spokesperson.
Regional Express hasn’t put a date on their final Kangaroo Island flight, but has indicated it will be in the coming weeks.