A fight over Wagga's airspace has turned ugly, with Regional Express accusing Qantas of muscling in on its routes in a "predatory" move that could cost both companies millions of dollars.
On Monday, Rex deputy chairman John Sharp slammed Qantas for introducing new services to regional airports, including a Wagga to Melbourne QantasLink service due to start in April.
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Mr Sharp said there were barely enough customers for one service, with Rex's Wagga to Melbourne flight attracting just 152 passengers in the last four weeks.
Qantas chief executive John Gissing hit back at Mr Sharp's "tantrum", saying that Rex too was expanding its services into capital cities off the back of millions of taxpayer dollars.
Mr Gissing said the extra flights was "good news" for regional areas, saying it would mean more services and cheaper fares.
Member for Wagga Joe McGirr said both airlines had a social responsibility to stop arguing and reach an agreement, especially since they were both propped up with "massive taxpayer support".
"My concern is if they don't resolve it, and it just becomes a competition issue, they won't win and communities will lose services," Dr McGirr said.
"A number of these regional routes are marginal in terms of cost recovery, so it's a case where the free market doesn't work."
Dr McGirr warned that if the feuding continues it could lead to massive losses for both airlines and threaten the viability of regional services to places like Wagga, which could lose one or both of its services.
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey dismissed the suggestion that Rex and Qantas were squandering taxpayer and ratepayer dollars through their squabbling, saying they were free to decide where they provide their services.
"It's an open market and we cannot get involved in a market decision by QantasLink or Rex as far as their services are concerned," Councillor Conkey said.
"Yes, the government has supported them, but at the same time they're supporting these rural and remote community regions that nobody else does. We appreciate the services Rex and QantasLink provide."
Thousands of Wagga ratepayer dollars go towards supporting Rex through the airport, however Cr Conkey insisted it was a worthwhile investment.
Council airport advisory committee member Cr Dan Hayes agreed it was vital to support regional airlines through COVID-19, however he said government needed to do more of the heavy lifting.
"My focus is on what's good for the community and having options and competition will be good for commuters," Cr Hayes said.
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