Rex defends delays

By Chris Thomson | posted on October 11, 2018

EXTENDED delays to Rex’s Albany flights have raised the ire of MLA Peter Watson, who says he will raise the matter with his State Labor colleague Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“I’m going to catch up with Rita to find out what the benchmarks are, because of the amount of complaints I’m getting,” Mr Watson said on Monday night after belatedly arriving in Perth.

That morning, his scheduled 6:30am flight did not depart Albany until 11.25am.

“It just happens all the time,” he told The Weekender.

“It’s a weekly occurrence.”

The parliamentarian said he took between 30 and 40 return flights to Perth a year, and Rex offered a wide range of reasons for delays.

“Sometimes, they say: ‘Oh, we can’t get the pilots’,” he lamented.

“They’re also putting people off planes because it’s too heavy.

“I was at Perth Airport a couple of weeks ago, and they said they needed two people to volunteer, otherwise they could not take off because it was bad weather in Albany.”

Mr Watson said he checked the weather on his phone and Albany seemed all clear, and when he finally touched down the weather was okay at Drome.

He said a fellow passenger, recently diagnosed with cancer, who missed a 9.45am specialist’s appointment in Perth thanks to Monday’s long delay, had emailed him.

“I didn’t receive a text message and did not find out about the cancelled flight until I arrived at the airport at 5.45[am],” the woman wrote.

“Had I received a message about the flight last night, I could have driven to Perth and made the appointment.

“I have to spend the night in Perth now, which I do not want to [as it] will incur extra charges.”

Mr Watson said that over the past 12 months, delays and cancellations had got “worse and worse”.

“Their name is ‘Regional Express’, but as someone said at the airport this morning, they may as well take the ‘express’ off because they’re never on time,” he said.

“They seem to think: ‘Oh, it’s a business, take what you get, we’ve got the [monopoly] rights [to run the service]’.

A Rex spokeswoman said Mr Watson’s flight was delayed due to “crew rest requirements as specified by Civil Aviation Orders”.

“The inbound flight from the previous night was delayed, resulting in an extended rest requirement for flight crew,” she said.

She said Rex’s on-time performance was “well above” the benchmark stipulated in the airline’s agreement with the State to operate the monopoly Albany service.

“In Financial Year 2018, Rex operated more than 2300 flights between Albany and Perth with 88 per cent operating on time and we expect a similar result in the full Financial Year 2019,” she said.

“There have been slightly more delays between Albany and Perth during the winter months of July and August.

“However, we are already seeing a significant improvement post winter.”

The Weekender asked questions of Ms Saffioti and received no reply.