Regional Express (Rex) has received interim authorisation from Australia's consumer watchdog to coordinate with other airlines on regional routes across Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Thursday granted Rex an interim authorisation to coordinate with Qantas (Qantaslink) and Virgin Australia on 10 regional routes where Rex competes with them.
In South Australia these routes will involve flights from Adelaide to Port Lincoln, Whyalla and Kangaroo Island.
The authorisation will also allow for Rex, Qantas and Virgin to share revenue from providing service on the routes.
This is conditional on the airlines charging fares no higher than those in place on February 1 this year so the airlines will not be able to coordinate on raising prices.
ACCC chairperson Rod Sims said this decision would help provide certainty for regional flight operators to support services on the routes for those who needed to use them.
"We hope that this temporary measure will also support airlines' ability to again compete with each other on these routes once the pandemic crisis has passed."
"Airlines are facing significant challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including rapidly escalating travel restrictions.
"The ACCC stands ready to urgently assist airlines with any coordination arrangements that are necessary and appropriate during this crisis."
Rex will enter into discussions with Qantaslink on how to best service regional communities only if there is meaningful assistance provided by federal, state and local governments to keep regional air services going.
Rex deputy chairperson John Sharp said Rex was extremely grateful to the ACCC for granting interim authorisation in four days.
"This very prompt decision, and the one taken earlier with regards to the banks, will make a critical difference for all Australians, especially those in regional and rural communities, to survive this unprecedented crisis," he said.
"The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is another regulatory body that has stepped up to the mark and responded very quickly, granting special concessions to give all commercial air operators breathing space.
"Rex, on behalf of the entire aviation community, would like to thank these two fine institutions for their invaluable role in helping all of Australia to pull through."
Mr Sharp said these measures alone would not allow the airlines to survive the next three months and federal, state and local governments needed to act urgently to determine assistance packages so airlines could continue to provide the bare minimum essential air services to keep the communities running.