Regional Express (Rex) has announced it will stop flying the Sydney to Merimbula route.
The decision comes after Bega Valley Shire Councillors discussed a proposal at their Wednesday meeting for another airline to operate passenger services on the route, albeit for an initial 14-week schedule to determine route viability.
On Thursday, Rex's corporate communications executive Jessica Makarewitsch wrote to Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick claiming council had resolved to allow the secondary airline to begin operations.
"Given the small passenger numbers, and the competition posed by a secondary airline on a route where Rex has historically seen passenger numbers which do not support viable operations for two carriers, Rex wishes to provide formal notification that we will withdraw from the Sydney/Merimbula route permanently," she wrote.
"We will be redeploying the Sydney Airport slots currently reserved for Merimbula to other destinations.
"The Melbourne/Merimbula service may also be equally impacted."
She wrote the timing of Rex's withdrawal was yet to be confirmed.
But it would not be later than the end of the Commonwealth Government Regional Airline Network Support program, which had been supporting Rex's reduced schedule on the route.
Ms Makarewitsch wrote that during normal operations prior to the impact of COVID-19, passenger numbers on the Sydney/Merimbula route were less than 40,000 passengers per annum.
"Rex has operated the route in triangulation with our Moruya services to ensure service viability," she wrote.
"Given the drastic downturn in passenger numbers, Rex is currently servicing this route with three return services per week, compared to the 18 return services we were operating pre-pandemic."
She said the current weekly average load factor was 66 per cent.
More to come.