Qantas has today announced it will launch flights from Sydney to Merimbula for the first time saying they will "bring much needed competition to the route in time for the summer holidays." This will be a great shot in the arm for tourism into the Sapphire Coast region with up to 400 passengers a week with Qantas saying the airline will add flights if there is strong demand. The response from Rex Airlines to the Bega Valley Shire Council on learning of the new route is understood to be matter of fact saying that "given the small passenger numbers, and the competition posed by a secondary airline on a route where Rex has historically seen passenger numbers which do not support viable operations for two carriers, Rex wishes to provide formal notification that we will withdraw from the Sydney/Merimbula route permanently." It is understood that Rex has also indicated that the Melbourne/Merimbula service may also be equally impacted. Rex currently flies into Moruya from Sydney at 8:15am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with a second afternoon flight on Thursdays. This route has always been financially supplemented by the combination with the more popular Merimbula leg.
From 18 December 2020, Qantas will operate four direct flights per week with its 50-seat Q300 turboprop aircraft, adding more than 400 seats on the route each week.* The airline will add flights if there is strong demand. Bega General Manager, Leanne Barnes said, “We acknowledge Regional Express’ long commitment to the Bega Valley, and Council welcomes the QantasLink service to Merimbula airport.
“This is a commercial decision for each airline and Council is the provider of airport infrastructure that can be utilised by local and national businesses.
“We trust both airlines will operate, and provide services and choice to the local community, building on and supporting local tourism seeking recovery after a particularly difficult year,” the General Manager said. QantasLink CEO John Gissing said the new Merimbula flights reinforced the national carrier’s commitment to helping the tourism industry recover from COVID-19. “With border restrictions fuelling demand for intra-state travel, we see a big opportunity to bring more tourists to Merimbula,” Mr Gissing said. “This will be the first time that the flying kangaroo has flown to the Sapphire Coast, which will mean more competitive fares on a route that has been a monopoly for decades. “We’ll be promoting Merimbula to millions of our frequent flyers across the state in the lead up the flights commencing. “These new flights will help more travellers explore the beautiful beaches and unique wildlife in and around Merimbula and give locals more choice in how they get to Sydney.” “We have a long history of serving regional Australia and we’re pleased to be able to support new routes where we see there is demand. It will also help us to get more of our people back to work,” Mr Gissing added. NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres welcomed the announcement and encouraged Sydneysiders to take the opportunity to support the South Coast by visiting this summer. “NSW’s far South Coast is known for its stunning beaches, as well as the fantastic bushwalks, delicious oysters and excellent fishing throughout the region,” Minister Ayres said. “As we reconnect with and rediscover our own state, it’s exciting that new destinations are opening up to an even broader market such as this new Sydney to Merimbula route, making it incredibly easy for residents to travel to throughout NSW.” Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Russell Fitzpatrick said the new Qantas flights demonstrated the value of long-term planning to maintain growth and services in the Shire. “We decided many years ago to invest in Merimbula airport, knowing that appropriate infrastructure will attract other airlines and great opportunity for every local town and village,” said Cr Fitzpatrick. “We welcome this move from Qantas to offer greater choice and value for customers, helping bring more visitors to the region. “There is no doubt these new services come at a good time. The summer bushfires and COVID-19 restrictions have hit our tourism industry hard, but with improved access to this beautiful part of the world we can now work towards a strong recovery.” Qantas launched two other intra-NSW routes in July, Sydney-Orange and for the first time in 15 years, Sydney-Byron Bay (Ballina). Since then, flights to Byron Bay have increased from one per day to up to four per day to meet demand. To celebrate the new route, Qantas is launching a three-day sale with fares available from $149 one-way, unless sold out prior. Fares are available to book from today via qantas.com or through travel agents. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas has introduced a number of initiatives to help customers to book with greater flexibility, including allowing a flight to be moved free of charge, as well as introducing additional health and safety measures through its Fly Well program. *Subject to government and regulatory approval.