Qantas (QF, Sydney Kingsford Smith) has announced that it would launch a new service from Sydney Kingsford Smith to Merimbula, an oceanside destination in the south of New South Wales, starting on December 18, 2020.

The carrier said Eastern Australia Airlines, one of its regional capacity providers operating as QantasLink, would operate the flights using DHC-8-Q300 turboprops. Initially, Qantas will operate to Merimbula 4x weekly. It is the first time the airline will be serving the city, reflecting the carrier's strong focus on boosting its domestic network as an alternative to COVID-restricted international travel.

"With border restrictions fuelling demand for intra-state travel, we see a big opportunity to bring more tourists to Merimbula. This will be the first time that the flying kangaroo has flown to the Sapphire Coast, which will mean more competitive fares on a route that has been a monopoly for decades," QantasLink CEO John Gissing said.

Gissing was referring to the competition with Rex - Regional Express (ZL, Wagga Wagga), which for now remains the sole airline serving Merimbula, operating 3x weekly to Sydney and 2x weekly to Melbourne Tullamarine. However, shortly after Qantas made the announcement, Rex announced it would pull out of the route after the southern summer, on March 28, 2021, rendering it a monopoly again.

"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," Corporate Communications Executive Jessica Makarewitsch said in a letter to the regional authorities, quoted by the South Coast Register.

Makarewitsch clarified that the decision would also affect the Melbourne-Merimbula route. The airline plans to use its slots at both gateways for other regional routes.