GRIFFITH'S turbulent relationship with Regional Express (REX) has plummeted to a new low after the airline this week scrapped its controversial Griffith to Melbourne leg.
The city's business and civic leaders have demanded Rex immediately reinstate the flights or risk a passenger backlash on the lucrative Sydney route.
Mayor Mike Neville said council would consider approaching QantasLink and other regional carriers in a bid to break Rex's monopoly chokehold on the Griffith
market, also threatening to review council's "sweetheart deal" on landing fees with the Singapore-owned airline.
Rex has blamed its decision on the impost of the looming carbon tax and removal of the government's enroute rebate scheme, saying the Melbourne leg was already the most unprofitable in its entire network.
But Griffith Business Chamber president Paul Pierotti said the flights were "doomed to fail", plagued by high ticket prices and poor scheduling.
"It's simple, Rex is out of touch with its passengers," Mr Pierotti said.
"The Melbourne schedule was fundamentally flawed and not convenient for business passengers. Yet they never even bother consulting with local business about it.
"They should have been more flexible with their pricing strategy and scheduling; the route was never given the chance to grow.
"We are sick of listening to them complaining about government policy and taxes.
"Rex says their heart is in the country, we say their wallet is in the country."
The last local Rex service to Melbourne will be on Friday, June 29, with the airline offering a full refund to customers booked after July 1.
A shocked Cr Neville said council now had little option but to try to lure other regional airlines to Griffith.
"Council will try to fast-track a meeting with Rex ... and will also try to engage a potential partner," Cr Neville said.
"We don't want to see access to Griffith stifled so we will look at whether there's another potential provider out there, whether it be QantasLink or another of the smaller airlines.
"For any aspiring airlines, there's an opportunity to leverage off the back of providing a service to Melbourne by also offering Sydney flights. People will patronise the service when they see value for money."
Council has previously made unsuccessful approaches to QantasLink and Virgin and has even lengthened the runway at the local aerodrome to cater for larger aircraft.
After Wednesday's decision by Rex, angry locals took to social media to vent their frustration at the airline.
Rex general manager of network strategy and sales, Warrick Lodge, all but ruled out a return to the Melbourne service.
"A return to the route from Rex is unlikely," Mr Lodge said.
"We have incurred losses on this service and we have really given it a very good go.
"The route has carried an average of 40 per cent of load capacity this financial year - less than 9000 passengers per year.
"This is by far the lowesr of any route Rex operates."
The Melbourne service started in 2007 but was suspended in 2009 due to a pilot shortage.
There are currently seven return flights per week to the Victorian capital.
Area News Facebook page - the reaction
How many more times are REX going to cancel these flights? It's about time we had some competition in Griffith as until there is REX are going to keep getting away with treating their flyers like crap.
$299 to travel to Sydney ONE WAY on 4th July...... JOKE! I'll drive to Wagga and fly Qantas link if that's how they are going to treat us!!!
I go to doctors in Sydney and fly from wagga as it's only $99 one way I even get $69 flights some times . All from rex and qantas.
I do a bit of flying n can say REX are the most pricey and I fly to n from perth. And near bet on it that they will never ran on time. I say council should extand the runway n get virgin or someone to fly in.
Bring in another airline this is crap how r we expected to b able to fly anywhere when they charge so much. I agree wit dean upgrade airport bring in competition.
The airfares for REX is just ridiculous. You can fly overseas for less than it cost to fly from Sydney to Griffith.
Enough of this Rexopoly! Bring in some competition.
When we flew to sydney cost an arm n a leg and all u get is a biscuit or soy chip and cuppa, o an dont forget the mento when u r going to land....they extended the runway so y dont we have other flights coming in ...
The Griffith to Melbourne flight times were ridiculous. If you had to go for a day trip you needed to spend at least two nights in Melbourne to have a full day in Melbourne, which made it 3 days away from home, not good for people who wish to do business in there.
Considering Melbourne isn't that far away by plane, a day trip is impossible. Rex killed it's own target market. Not really a bright idea for a business model.
We had better transport services and choices out of Griffith over 20 years ago than we have today so the question needs to be asked. WHAT happened?
Carmel La Rocca