REGIONAL Express’s (Rex) rocky relationship with Griffith has plummeted to a new low after a fresh round of passenger complaints about the exorbitant price of fares.
Passengers booking an afternoon flight from Griffith to Sydney five weeks from tomorrow will be forced to pay more than $440 for their ticket – about the same as it would cost to travel from Sydney to Singapore on the same day.
Inflated Rex fares in and out of Griffith have been an ongoing gripe for local travellers but their anger has been fuelled by the airline’s recent cost-cutting measures, including the axing of the Griffith to Melbourne leg and the scrapping of the airline’s frequent flyer program.
The cancellation of the two services has come at a bad time for Rex, as talks progress between Griffith City Council and an alternative regional airline.
Griffith-based wine analyst Stuart McGrath-Kerr said ticket prices such as the $441 he would have to pay to fly to Sydney on the afternoon of Thursday, July 19 would be the last straw for travellers who had been let down time and time again.
“There was no way I was going to pay that amount – it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Mr McGrath-Kerr said.
“For $400, I would rather drive to Wagga and get another, cheaper flight to Sydney.”
The three lower-level fares between Griffith and Sydney were sold out when Mr McGrath-Kerr stumbled upon the $441 flight.
On the same afternoon, the cheapest available flight from Wagga to Sydney was $200.
Anger against Rex has become widespread across Griffith’s business community, with one of Griffith’s most prominent businessmen calling the airline’s price structure “absurd”.
“The thing I don’t understand is that they (Rex) just don’t seem to care,” Collier and Miller managing director Peter Miller said.
“There are a lot of people with medical conditions who have to fly to Sydney without much notice and they cop these massive fares that no one should ever have to pay.
“If they’d been flying from anywhere else, they would have only had to pay about one third of that price.”
Mr Miller believed airfares between Griffith and Sydney should never top $150.
But Rex network strategy general manager Warrick Lodge defended the $440 ticket price, saying all airlines offered a range of fares to manage demand.
Mr Lodge said the airline could not offer all seats at the lowest fare because flights would fill up too quickly, giving no opportunity for last-minute bookings if customers needed to fly urgently.
He said flights between Griffith and Sydney would not be viable if each traveller paid only the minimum $160 for their ticket.