Regional airline takes aim at public servant travel policy

TAXPAYERS are footing the bill for exorbitant travel costs for Queensland public servants, giving them access to loyalty programs and lounges with major airlines.

Regional airline Rex took swipe at the government's air travel policy as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced changes to the air services between Townsville and Cairns.

The changes mean Rex has access to the route, breaking the monopoly on the service.

In a statement, Rex has called on the government to ensure government travel costs fit with a "strict best-fare-of-the-day" policy, to save money and ensure that smaller airlines are not disadvantaged.

"Rex also calls upon the Queensland Government to review its air travel policy that allows public servants to personally benefit from airline loyalty programs when travelling at the expense of the taxpayer," the airline wrote in a statement.

"Rex believes that all government travel should be undertaken under a strict best fare of the day policy in order to ensure the best value for taxpayers and an even playing field that encourages competitive air services throughout the state.

"This competition is critical to maintaining reasonable airfares in regional areas such as North Queensland."

The government's policy leaves "best value" travel of public servants open to interpretation.

A government spokesman told the Townsville Bulletin that staff must travel on "best value economy class".

The government defines the best value fare as the one that is the lowest cost, best suits the public servant needs and entitlements.

How much staff have to wait, and the cost of related accommodation is also included in the consideration.

Read the full statement below:

Regional Express (Rex) has today announced the introduction of an improved flight schedule between Cairns and Townsville from 24 October 2016.

Rex has been operating services between Cairns and Townsville since January 2015. Commenting on the new Rex flight schedule, Rex Queensland State Manager Steve Jones said,

"Rex has listened to government and business customers in both Cairns and Townsville and as a result we have reversed the flight schedule to operate an earlier flight from Cairns to Townsville in the morning, and a later flight from Townsville back to Cairns in the afternoon. We have also retained the ability for customers to undertake a full day's business in both cities with day-return travel made possible in each direction."

"Following Virgin Australia's exit from the Cairns to Townsville route in January 2014, Rex was heavily solicited by businesses and individuals to start a competitive air service so that the prevailing monopolistic pricing could be broken.

In response, Rex commenced flights between Cairns and Townsville in early 2015, delivering millions of dollars of travel cost savings to both cities."

"Rex continues to listen and respond to the needs of its customers, however it does need the full support of both government and business to use the service or risk reverting to a costly monopoly on the Cairns to Townsville route.

"All that Rex asks is that customers choose the lowest fare which will reduce costs for government (taxpayers) and business, which in turn will foster competitive air services and keep fares affordable."

Rex also calls upon the Queensland Government to review its air travel policy that allows public servants to personally benefit from airline loyalty programs when travelling at the expense of the taxpayer.

Rex believes that all government travel should be undertaken under a strict best fare of the day policy in order to ensure the best value for taxpayers and an even playing field that encourages competitive air services throughout the state.

This competition is critical to maintaining reasonable airfares in regional areas such as North Queensland.

Reservations for the new Cairns to Townsville service can be made via rex.com.au, 13 17 13 or through your local travel agent.

Regional Express (Rex) is Australia's largest independent regional airline operating a fleet of more than 50 Saab 340 aircraft on some 1,500 weekly flights to 58 destinations throughout all states in Australia.

In addition to the regional airline Regional Express, the Rex Group comprises wholly owned subsidiaries Pel-Air Aviation (air freight and charter operator), Air Link (Dubbo-based regional airline) and the Australian Airline Pilot Academy.



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