REGIONAL Express Airlines (Rex) is expected to cease its flights in and out of Bathurst at the end of May, leaving the city without a direct commercial route to Sydney.
Deputy mayor Ben Fry said Bathurst Regional Council has been in talks with Rex about its Bathurst services.
At the most recent meeting, Rex only gave assurances of flights to and from Bathurst until the end of May.
"Rex have come to us complaining of the market and a drop in seats and a drop in passengers, that sort of stuff," Cr Fry said.
"... They framed it a funny way. They said, 'We'll have flights available til the end of May', and that to me, reading between the lines, is that they will no longer offer flights to Bathurst."
In a statement to the Western Advocate, the airline confirmed the route was no longer viable and that it was "seeking other options to keep the services".
"Rex has been subsidising the Bathurst to Sydney route for more than 20 years. In our recent discussions with Bathurst Regional Council we have been quite clear that our two weekly services have been underpinned by the Federal Government's Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) program," a spokesperson said.
"This support lapses at the end of May which means the route is no longer viable, particularly when the two return flights we operate each week - on Mondays and Fridays - have an average load factor of less than 50 per cent.
"Rex is seeking other options to keep the services and is in active discussions with stakeholders."
The spokesperson said that further details about these options "will be disclosed if anything concrete materialises".
But Cr Fry is not convinced Rex has a future in Bathurst.
He described Rex as "that friend that you've mutually drifted away from", adding that the airline had become somewhat unreliable for Bathurst passengers.
"Late cancellations or massive delays cause people to quickly jump in the car and drive to Orange," he said.
"I've talked to heaps of professionals, non-executive directors, health professionals and people who were going to health appointments in Sydney for the day who were turning up to the Bathurst airport just to find that their flight had been cancelled and they had to try to get to Orange in a short amount of time to get a flight.
"I reckon it's not just COVID that has impacted their [Rex's] connection."
While Rex appears to be departing, Cr Fry has reassured that council is in talks with other airlines to try to secure a suitable replacement as soon as possible.
With Bathurst growing and attracting new residents and investors, he said it is essential for there to be flights between Bathurst and Sydney.
"We want to make sure that their entry and exit to Bathurst is as smooth as possible and that's why flights are key," Cr Fry said.
"Your average person like myself, I don't use that flight very often, but there are people that do use it and it means economic stimulus for Bathurst."
Additionally, he said major infrastructure upgrades in the works between Bathurst and Sydney could cause hefty delays on the roads over the next decade, potentially making air travel a more attractive option.
Cr Fry said council wants a commercial flight route between Bathurst and Sydney that's not only convenient, but reliable, and it is working towards that.
"We've fallen out of love with Rex and it's time for a fresh start with a new airline," he said.
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