Regionals Update: Qantas boosts regional presence

 - August 4, 2008, 12:10 PM

Australian flag-carrier Qantas last month announced it would enlist its wholly owned regional subsidiary, QantasLink, for a large-scale expansion along the country’s eastern seaboard in response from stronger demand from regional points in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. QantasLink will start the expansion with its fleet of de Havilland Dash 8s on July 28, opening with 22 new daily flights each week between Newcastle and Melbourne.

The airline also plans to increase the use of its newest and largest turboprop–the 50-seat Dash 8-300–on peak-hour flights between Sydney and Tamworth, resulting in a capacity increase of 15 percent on that route.

Qantas has issued requests for proposals (RFPs) to both ATR and Bombardier for the possible replacement of 32 aging Dash 8s. All the recent activity appears to signal a newfound commitment from Qantas to its regional network, much to the dismay of competitors such as Saab 340 operator Regional Express, which has complained of favoritism toward Qantas on the part of government agencies.

Regional Express ended its service between Canberra and Melbourne on July 25 after a disappointing response from government travelers to its cheaper fares. Despite its intense marketing efforts, Regional Express managed to draw just 1 percent of the government bookings on the route. The trend has forced Regional Express to consider slashing its Canberra-Sidney route also. Qantas subsidiary Qantas Business Travel acts as the travel agent for most government departments.