Australian regional airlines resume flights with government funding
After weeks of struggling with operating empty aircraft due to COVID-19, many of Australia’s regional airlines were forced to cease most of their operations. However, in the last week this all changed for the better when the Australian Government announced the Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) scheme in order to prevent the loss of essential air services to the many remote communities around Australia.
The new RANS scheme allows regional airlines to operate one or more weekly return services per week on each of their routes fully subsidised by the Australian Government. Regional Express Airlines (better known as REX) was the first airline to announce it would begin operating under the scheme which came at a critical time for the airline which had announced that if it did not receive any government assistance, it would have ceased operations within one week. The airline has since recommenced operations out of Perth, Western Australia, as well as its flights to Kangaroo Island and its famous milk run services through Western and North-Western Queensland all at a once-weekly frequency. The airline will recommence flights over the remainder of its network over the coming weeks on a once-weekly basis.
Newcastle-based FlyPelican was the second airline to take advantage of the scheme, announcing on the 20th April 2020. that it would be recommencing a limited schedule across its whole network immediately. This followed a temporary but sudden cessation of operations on March 30th due to the effects of COVID-19. The first services to resume were the airline’s popular Sydney to Newcastle, Sydney to Taree and Newcastle to Taree flights, all operated with the 19-seat BAe Jetstream 32.
Brisbane based regional airline Fly Corporate today also announced it too would recommence a minimum schedule across its whole network on the 4th May 2020 with flights being subsidised by the Australian Government under the RANS scheme. The airline also stated today that the minimum schedule would remain in effect until the 28th August 2020. This schedule also has the potential to be extended, depending on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the Australian airline industry. Fly Corporate’s CEO said today he “was very pleased the vital air links to regional communities in Queensland and New South Wales were able to continue.”
According to Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack, “The package guaranteed core routes for domestic air travel will remain open and essential workers will remain employed.” The federal government plans to fund this schedule for the next six months although it will be constantly reviewed.