Airline axes regional service over screening fees
Rex Airlines will axe its Adelaide to Whyalla service after a stoush with the local council over charges for security screening.
The airline says its services will stop at the end of June following the council's decision to pass on the cost of security checks to all airlines using the Whyalla Airport, describing the move as "devious and underhanded".
Rex says the federal government has determined that its regional aircraft are not required to have security screening for its passengers, something the council is aware of.
It says Qantas services are legally required to be screened.
But the council says it can't have different rules for individual carriers.
"Regardless of individual carriers' requirements, the Whyalla Airport has now become a screened facility to meet federal aviation conditions," Whyalla Mayor Phill Stone said.
"This means all airlines utilising the facility will need to cover the cost of screening, particularly given passengers cannot be segregated from screening based on their carrier.
"Only passing the cost on to Qantas would create an unfair playing field due to it resulting in about $80 extra per departing passenger for Qantas, while Rex would incur no additional costs."
Rex's General Manager of Network Strategy Warrick Lodge said the additional security cost made the Whyalla to Adelaide service unviable and the airline had no option but to scrap the route.
"Imposing a passenger security screening charge of $35-$40 per departing passenger is a devious and underhanded attempt by Whyalla City Council to force Rex to subsidise the security screening costs of Qantas," Mr Lodge said.
"We have made it perfectly clear to the City of Whyalla for many months that this unnecessary and significant cost will result in the route being financially unsustainable."
Mr Stone said the airline's departure was a huge blow to the local community but to suggest its decision to pass on the charges was "underhanded" was unfair.
He said the council would now work with the broader airline industry to explore options to help minimise the impact.
The mayor also took a swipe at the federal government for its decision to no longer cover the security screening costs, accusing it of letting the Whyalla community down.
"Unfortunately, our extensive lobbying to the relevant federal ministers has fallen on deaf ears," he said.