Exit SEX and in comes REX

By LEE McDOUGALL

SEX is being swapped for REX and the Coffs Coast business community couldn't be happier.

Regional Express Airlines (REX) this week announced its intention to fast-track the acquisition of Sunshine Express Airlines' (SEX) entire regional airline operation.

Coffs Harbour mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said news of the takeover would be welcomed by the Coffs Coast business community who had struggled all year with delayed and cancelled flights between Coffs Harbour and Brisbane.

"There were problems with late flights and cancelled flights and we (Coffs Harbour City Council) held discussions with Sunshine Express some months ago to raise concerns of the unreliable nature of the flights," Cr Rhoades said.

The problems for Sunshine Express, which flies daily to and from the Queensland capital, were the result of a hangar accident with one of their Metro 23 aircrafts during routine maintenance, that resulted in the plane being permanently grounded.

"This led to a substantially reduced capability to meet our schedules with the high degree of integrity necessary for a regional airline," Sunshine Express managing director Steve Padgett said.

REX managing director Geoff Breust said the grounding of the damaged aircraft and difficulty in finding a replacement aircraft resulted in REX being informed that Sunshine Express' position was becoming untenable.

"In discussions between the airlines, REX and Sunshine Express agreed in principle to merge so that there was a future for the airline, the air services and the staff."

While the details of the impact of the merger on the Coffs Harbour to Brisbane service are at present unknown, it is hoped that the merger may result in the removal of the 'uncomfortable' Metro 23 aircraft for REX's larger 34-seat Saab aircraft.

"We have given our commitment to a mixed 34-seat Saab/19seat Metro operation (but) we plan to eventually bring two Saab 340s into the Sunshine Express net- work," Mr Breust said.



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