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Rex plans frequency boost to Albany and Esperance

written by australianaviation.com.au | December 9, 2015

A Regional Express (Rex) Saab 340 aircraft.
A Rex Saab 340.

Residents of Albany and Esperance in Western Australia’s south look set to receive more flight options, although not necessarily too many more seats, to Perth once Regional Express (Rex) takes over two government-regulated routes from Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) from February 2016.

Rex has officially signed the deed to operate the two routes for the next five years, having won the tender in November and the first flights are due to begin on February 28 2016.

The airline published schedules for its first two routes in WA on Wednesday, which showed Rex planned to offer four flights a day on the Albany-Perth route on weekdays, and three flights over the weekend for a weekly total of 23. This was up from 13 weekday flights and two weekend services from VARA under the current contract.

And Rex will have three flights a day on weekdays between Esperance and Perth, with a further three on the weekend lifting the weekly total to 18. VARA offered two flights a day during the week and three over the weekend.

WA Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the new schedule represented 53 per cent increase in weekly flights to Albany and 38 per cent boost for Esperance.


“The state government’s decision to award Rex the regulated air services routes between Perth and Esperance and Perth and Albany will provide consumers with more travel options and flexibility than has previously been the case,” Nalder said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Rex’s service will result in a better range of flight times for travellers and an increase in total seat capacity, allowing for an increase in passenger numbers on the routes.

While Rex flight schedules represented a significant jump in frequency, the increase in available seats will be more modest given the Saab 340s Rex will use have 34 seats compared with 46-seat Fokker 50s VARA is currently deploying on the two routes. The number of one-way seats at Albany and Esperance is going up by about six per cent and two per cent, respectively once Rex begins flying.

Rex said on Wednesday it would begin ticket sales once it had reached a deal with the two local councils on airport charges.

“We need to highlight that current airport charges at Albany and Esperance are significantly higher than in Rex’s eastern network,” Rex general manager for network strategy and sales Warrick Lodge said in a statement.

“Rex will work hard with the councils to reduce this cost but if this is not successful then inevitably ticket prices will have to reflect this.”

VARA decided not to bid to continue operating the two government-regulated routes, given they were losing money.

“The losses, frankly were just too big,” Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti told reporters in Perth on November 13.

“We just couldn’t find a way to make it work.”

VARA’s last flights to Albany and Esperance will be on February 27 2016 and the airline is selling its entire fleet of eight Fokker 50s.

Meanwhile, the WA government tender also resulted in Skippers Aviation continuing to operate Perth-Carnarvon-Monkey Mia and Perth-Northern Goldfields air routes, which covers Laverton, Leonora, Meekatharra, Mount Magnet and Wiluna, until June 2017.

However, Department of Transport said on its website it was continuing to “explore options for the Perth-Derby route with the aviation industry”.

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Comments (10)

  • Mackai


    They should route some of the esperance flights via kalgoorlie, there is demand on both legs

  • Mark


    Wish Rex best of luck with the Saab’s and offering better frequency. I think Esperance was serviced by a similar style aircraft before Skywest which are more suited for the population size. Those F50’s were looking pretty tired and didn’t smell to nice last time I flew on them.

  • WA Pilot


    One of the reasons it didn’t work for VARA is that the security costs were adding too much to the ticket prices. Certainly Rex with smaller aircraft that don’t require screening will be able to pass this saving on but the downside is there will be no seamless transferring from ABA or ESP onto another domestic service out of Perth. You will be made to make the exit of shame to the landside area, collect your bags, re-check and go through screening again.
    Taller passengers will certainly notice the difference with less headroom / leg room on the SAAB.
    Mark, perhaps the smell you experienced in the F-50s was more attributable to the pax rather than the aircraft itself.

  • craig


    Rex should route at least one flight a week via esperance to Albany to allow business visitors to visit both locations. The government should have worked this one out, when retendering the flights. Also bunny hoppying via Kalgoorlie is a good idea.

    The need for travel is not just direct Perth to Regional Centre, but also Regional Centre to Regional Centre to support business travellers.

    The Derby rout might as well just be serviced through Broome. I would go to Derby for business more often, but am not going to make an expensive one off trip, I would do it as an extension of Broome visits, if that option was on offer.

  • Jonaich


    Are REX going to base a couple of aircraft in Perth. Or fly empty from South Australia.

  • m


    Going to base crew and aircraft.

  • Swannie


    Nalder has no idea, he just gets fed the inaccuracies of those below him. The increases are based on the reduced schedule that Virgin demanded of Government a couple of years ago so the proposed Rex schedule likely doesnt cover what the original agreement was……Virgin also grossly mismanaged the routes…..
    WA Pilot is correct also….where are Rex going to depart/arrive from at PER? Certainly no onwards agreements so yep, grab yours bags and run the 1,000’s of miles to either QF or VA or International….good luck with that!
    And Craig and Mackai, the ‘bunny hopping’ has been done before and there is no money in that…..never was, never will be.
    I do hope Rex can make a go of it , and yes pump those greedy councils as they will have a major problem losing the security revenue as well as ridiculously high charges…..they may also have a loss to take to their constituents so that will be interesting too!

  • David


    Apparently REX has been advertising positions in Perth which would indicate they indeed basing aircraft in Perth.

    As far as the final two paragraphs Skippers Aviation CEO has made it very clear that nothing has been signed and as such no agreement in place. Much like the large campaign Skippers ran for their new F100 service to Onslow that was scheduled to commence in March 2014 and didn’t eventuate leaving to F100’s basically sitting around..

    It is now time that all parties to actually get together rather than throwing demands left, right and centre as individual self interest pillars. So come on Skippers, DoT, Shire of Carnarvon, Shire of Shark Bay and Tourism of WA you’ve got the people to do this and make a win for everyone.

  • Michael


    As long as REX get the timing right, they will make the best use of the smaller aircraft. I have only flown from Perth to Albany a few times when necessary, the price compared to driving is not competitive. Those times I have flown have been midday/early afternoon flights, with the planes half full or less. Yet I have heard from others that the morning and late afternoon/evening flights are usually full.. So if REX can use their 340s to target the morning travellers to Perth and then the returns at the end of the day, they should move more passengers than Virgin has been, even if the total seat numbers are not much higher. Whoever takes on regional air routes, good luck to them, and thanks for having a go.

  • jonaich


    I assume Rex will be using T2, Also don’t Rex have an interline agreement with VA still
    I just hope they can find Saab pilots in Perth or willing to relocate. I recall some issues when they were going to fly out of Maryborough QLD
    Very surprised Skippers didn’t get the contract or another WA co. .
    Good luck REX.

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