Regional Express (Rex) airlines have refuted claims that ‘fly-in-fly-out’ (FIFO) arrangements with mining companies have been causing unscheduled delays to regular services.
A local airline passenger, who wishes to remain anonymous, has informed Echonetdaily that a recent scheduled flight was delayed for almost two hours as ‘pilots were tied up with FIFO [operations] for mining companies’.
The Rex flight was due to leave Lismore for Sydney around 9am on Friday March 30. After the flight was rescheduled twice, the passenger says her partner, a local professional, approached airline counter staff to enquire about the cause of the delay. The reason provided onsite was, ‘Rex is suddenly getting a lot of work for fly-in-fly-out transport for mining companies. The flight was delayed as the plane was waiting for a pilot.’
She says her partner regularly uses and depends on this service. He is genuinely concerned about the priority of scheduled flights and was eager to hear a media statement from Rex indicating their official position on what was hopefully a one-off problem.
He was concerned that if the Lismore Rex flight could not be relied upon he would have no alternative but to fly from Ballina with one of the major airlines.
Candice Teo, of Rex Corporate Communications, told Echonetdaily, ‘the reason for the flight delay was due to the aircraft becoming unserviceable and we had a shortage of aircraft and hence had to wait for the aircraft to be fixed before it could operate. It had nothing to do with “staffing” issues’. Ms Teo said she was ‘not sure why the passenger had gotten that information but we will follow up with the airport staff member’.
Whatever the real reason for the delay, it is a timely reminder to the community that amenities such as regular scheduled flights are integral to our local economy and welfare. If mining companies are in a position to cherry-pick our local services at whim, it doesn’t bode well for a future in communities where mining is king.