Coronavirus crisis: Regional airlines get $200m to keep them flying amid COVID-19 downturn

Sarah IsonThe West Australian
The funding comes after regional airline Rex was forced to cut all domestic flights except those to Queensland.
Camera IconThe funding comes after regional airline Rex was forced to cut all domestic flights except those to Queensland. Credit: methode

Regional airlines are being thrown a lifeline by the Federal Government after more support was announced today to keep them flying.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced almost $200 million for a Regional Air Network Assistance Package this morning to underwrite operating costs and guarantee core routes remain open.

An additional $100 million was also made available to provide direct financial support to smaller regional airlines who needed financial assistance.

Airlines can apply for funding and, subject to financial analysis, be eligible for assistance on a month-by-month basis through to September 30.

It comes after regional airline Rex was forced to cut all domestic flights except those to Queensland, before teaming up with Qantas and Virgin yesterday to keep country routes flying.

“More than 100 regional and remote airports received a scheduled passenger service last month and this funding will be welcome news for the aviation workforce and the broader communities these services support,” Mr McCormack said.

“The funding will ensure regional communities benefit from an ongoing airline service by underwriting airlines’ operating costs on selected routes.”

There are currently about 12 commercial regional airlines – aside from the Virgin Australia and Qantas groups – which operate regular scheduled passenger services across Australia.

“This package guarantees core routes for domestic air freight will remain open and essential workers remain employed, while providing vital financial support for airlines servicing regional and remote locations,” Mr McCormack said.

The funding joins a $715 million package for larger airlines announced last week, bringing the total committed to helping the airline sector to more than $1 billion.

“I am speaking with industry executives and representatives daily, making sure they’re receiving the support they need and listening to what else may be required as the COVID-19 pandemic deepens,” he said.

“Everything we are doing as a Government in response to COVID-19 is focused on saving lives and livelihoods.”

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