I was talking about the direction XR (formerly YT) is taking with a friend yesterday (she is a 2-year flight attendant with the airline).
On Tuesday, the General Manager, Bill Meekes was fired from him position by the new owners of the airline. Bill is a veteran of the airline scene here in Western Australia. Also fired was another "high level" manager.
From what my friend was telling me, there seems to have been some type of discord between management and the owners over the very direction Miami1 talks about. It seems that Meekes and crew want to get jets for the airline, to allow them to compete on a level footing with QF on intra-WA service.
Last year, XR commenced services on the PER-BME market, with their Fokker 50s, and the service was canned after only 1 or 2 flights, due to very light loads. XR just can't compete with QF on some of these routes, as QF is running services with 737 equipment.
Another problem is that they do not have enough aircraft to service their market. When Ansett shut down last year, as part of the negotiations to get XR back into the air, Woodside Petroleum agreed to give XR a "contract" to start flights into Karratha. Basically, these were charter flights, paid for by Woodside, but XR were able to sell tickets for any empty seats. Loads on this service was excellent, with almost full flights both ways (the f/a's used to dread this flight for that reason). After operating this service for Woodside for a few weeks, Woodside requested that more flights be put on, but because XR didn't have any Fokker 50s lying idle, they were unable to do it. So Woodside decided, with regret, to award their contract to QF Airlink. From what I understand, Woodside basically told XR management that when more aircraft are added to the fleet, they would reconsider the situation.
This is basically the reason why Meekes and Co. were so keen on getting jets so as to allow the airline to better serve it customers. Remember that a lot of XR services, such as to Leonora and Leinster, are basically charter flights for mining companies, and as the mining industry expands, so do their needs for either more frequent flights, or larger aircraft to service these flights.
Now, I don't know what the owners position is on getting jets, but it seems that they may think they will cost too much in the short to medium-term. Remember, XR is basically still getting back on its feet and trying to regain its market with the loss of Ansett feeder traffic.
The decision to sack Meekes was made at the very same time as there was a Flight West Fokker 100 in Perth. There were talkings around the airline, that these aircraft were being looked at for the XR fleet. The Fokker 100 would be a much better choice for the airline, as they are readily available from Flight West, and obviously their acquirement costs would be much lower than a 717 or 737, or even CRJs.
As far as I am aware there hasn't been any political interference from either the Federal or Western Australian governments in this situation.
About smelling a rat coming on, I personally think that XR would be better off to enter some type of commercial arrangement with DJ to act as a DJ feeder
for their Perth-Sydney, Perth-Adelaide and Perth-Melbourne flights. This will give DJ more market share in the WA market, and could potentially lead to the airline putting more Perth-Eastern States flights on a bit sooner. Whether this commercial arrangement could be a "loose" one, or a fully fledged franchise (something I don't think XR could actually afford at the moment) would have to be looked at, but some type of tie up with DJ is basically essential for the long-term survival of the airline.