FlyPelican Takes Over From Rex On The Sydney

Newcastle Williamtown-based commuter airline FlyPelican is taking over from Regional Express (Rex) on the Sydney – Bathurst route, resuming seasonal flights between Dubbo and Ballina Byron, and ending flights between Taree and Sydney. The latest news caps a busy few months of shifting schedules at FlyPelican, with a handful of routes dropping off the radar and some new routes beginning.

FlyPelican starts Bathurst flights on September 5

On Tuesday, FlyPelican confirmed it would start flying the short hop over the Blue Mountains between Sydney (SYD) and Bathurst (BHS). Rex had flown the 95-mile (153 kilometer) route for over two decades but recently ended flights on the route, saying they were no longer viable. Rex sent 36 passenger Saab 340s to Bathurst, whereas FlyPelican’s Jetstream 32s only seat 19 passengers.

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“The Sydney to Bathurst route aligns with our core business of providing regional air services to routes that can’t viably be serviced by larger aircraft operators,” says FlyPelican’s Chief Executive Officer Marty Hawley. Flights will start on September 5, flying daily except for Saturday in both directions. By the start of November, FlyPelican is eyeing twice-daily commuter-friendly return services on the route.

Bathurst Airport will see regular flights to Sydney resume on September 5. Photo: Bathurst City Council

“It is vital that businesses, health, and tourist sectors have access to a daily regular passenger transport service and necessary for Bathurst to identify as an important regional destination,” says Bathurst City Mayor Robert Taylor.

A couple of hundred kilometers further west, Dubbo (DBO) sees its air service to Ballina Byron (BNK) restored on September 8 after a winter hibernation. FlyPelican’s Jetstreams will hop between the central west NSW city and the state’s far north coast twice a week, with flights on Thursdays and Sundays. As FlyPelican notes, the schedule is perfect for a long weekend away. Unlike the Sydney – Bathurst route, which you can cover in a car in under three hours on a good day, the FlyPelican DBO – BNK service is an attractive alternative to a ten-hour drive.

FlyPelican flights to Taree end abruptly

Meanwhile, it’s not all new route announcements and good news at FlyPelican. The airline has ended flights between Sydney and Taree (TRO). Taree is a regional New South Wales city that, like Bathurst, is just close enough to Sydney (and even closer to FlyPelican’s Newcastle Williamtown (NTL) base) to make operating scheduled flights a tricky task.

“With great sadness, we have suspended our direct services between Sydney and Taree for the time being, and all flights have been removed from sale,” says a FlyPelican statement. “In the current travel climate and with low passenger loads, these services are not sustainable at this time.”

FlyPelican operates a small fleet of Jetstream 32 turboprops. Photo: FlyPelican

A statement from the MidCoast Council, operators of Taree Airport, said the removal of Government grants, rising fuel prices, and a lack of passenger numbers forced FlyPelican’s hand on the Sydney – Taree route.

“Regional flights, including the Taree to Sydney route, have been subsidized by the (Australian) Federal Government Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) program, which provided financial support to airlines maintaining connections with regional locations,” the statement says.

“The program was designed to support the aviation industry in the recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This subsidy ceased on 30 June. The removal of the subsidy, along with rising fuel prices and declining passenger numbers, has resulted in a decision by FlyPelican to suspend flights out of Taree Airport.”

The ending of the RANs program was one reason Regional Express also cited in its decision to end flights to Bathurst and four other regional centers in late June.



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