Following Clarence valley Council’s (CVC) meeting on Tuesday June 23, the mayor has written to Regional Express (REX) Holdings Ltd’s executive chairman, Lim Kim Hai, “expressing regret for any perceptions of negativity causing offence made towards REX at Council’s May meeting”.
The mayor’s letter also thanked Mr Lim “for what Council acknowledges are essential airline services that REX provides to regional Australia and, in particular, the services they provide to the Clarence Valley.”
The decision was taken because REX wrote to CVC stating it was ceasing to service the valley as of July 3, 2020.
Mr Lim was offended by a comment made by Cr Deborah Novak at the May CVC meeting, when councillors were debating whether or not to grant REX a 50 per cent cut in head tax charges.
“…given the hostility of the Councillors in relation to this matter, and following the call for Rex to ‘pull their finger out’, Rex will reject council’s offer [to grant the 50 per cent cut],” the airline’s national airports manager, David Brooksby, wrote.
“…Please also be aware that Rex will cease all services to Grafton with effect from 3 July 2020.”
Mayor Jim Simmons said at that time that REX’s decision was “very disappointing” and that the letter was “heavy-handed”.
“The person from REX who sent the letter [David Brooksby, National Airports Manager] is incorrect; he has wrongly accused councillors of being anti REX,” he said.
On Friday June 26, CVC’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, said Mr Brooksby had forwarded CVC’s apology letter to Mr Lim.
“I said to David [Brooksby] that we would like [return] correspondence to say [that Mr Lim] has considered it, and they’re done, or they’ll continue to fly in,” he said.
On whether or not Fly Pelican could fill the void, Mr Lindsay said: “They’ve written to council but we haven’t touched bases with them yet; we’re still negotiating with REX.”
Fly Pelican is a NSW regional airline that services Ballina/Byron Bay among its destinations.
Mr Lindsay said that there was some doubt about whether or not Fly Pelican could fill the void left by REX if it ceases its Grafton service.
“The question will be: do they have slots flying into Sydney?” he said.
Mr Lindsay said the “slot” held by REX at Sydney Airport is still being used because “REX is still flying to Lismore”.
“It’s a triangulated service, so the slot that REX uses to fly to Grafton and Lismore is still being used by REX to fly to Lismore,” he said.
Mr Lindsay said further consideration of a Fly Pelican option would not occur unless “REX gives us formal advice, [saying] ‘fulltime, we’re done’”.