Rex has sensationally announced it will start selling tickets between Sydney and Melbourne from today for a 1 March launch.
The regional airline also confirmed it would initially operate nine return services a day between the two cities, with sale prices starting at $79. Economy tickets will include checked baggage, food and pre-assigned seating – indicating Rex will pursue a ‘mid-market’ hybrid strategy.
The news comes less than a week after rivals Qantas and Virgin began significantly increasing their capacity due to borders between NSW, Queensland and Victoria opening.
Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said on Wednesday, “The first 3 Rex Boeing 737-800s will take off between Sydney and Melbourne on 1 March 2021.
“Rex will begin with nine Sydney-Melbourne return services a day. By Easter, two additional 737s will be added to expand our domestic network to Brisbane and other capital cities. If all things go as planned, we hope to grow our fleet to 8-10 by the end of 2021.”
The business also revealed its new livery that will be displayed on the 737s, as pictured above.
“Rex will offer all the usual perks of a full-service carrier including 8 Business Class seats,” said Sharp. “All fares include checked baggage allowance, food, pre-assigned seating and online check-in. Lounge access and on-board Wi-Fi will be free for Business Class, whilst Economy passengers can access these options for a small fee.”
The airline will draw down an initial $50 million in January next year from PAG Asia Capital and the deal will see the APAC organisation nominate two directors to sit on the board.
“Once the initial services are well established, we aim to progressively grow our fleet to cover all the major cities in Australia,” said Rex executive chairman Lim Kim Hai.
“PAG is a well-respected and highly successful investment group which manages more than US$40 billion on behalf of major global institutional investors.
“Preparations for our domestic operations are proceeding to plan with our first Boeing 737 800NG aircraft delivered on 5 November 2020. Our crew will carry out training on the aircraft over the next three weeks before the CASA proving flight on 2 December 2020.”
Last month, Australian Aviation photographer Lenn Bayliss photographed Rex’s first 737 shortly after it had its old Virgin livery removed at Wellcamp before the regional airline took delivery of it in Sydney on 5 November.
The plane has been flying back and forth between Sydney and Melbourne, likely in preparation for its CASA proving flight on 5 December.
Rex’s timing is likely to cause alarm for rivals Virgin and Qantas, which have both been celebrating record sales as Queensland’s border opens to both Sydney and Victoria.
Yesterday, Australian Aviation revealed how Virgin was set to match Qantas and return to 60 per cent of pre-COVID domestic capacity by January.
Return frequencies by Christmas will increase to six per day between Melbourne and Brisbane; nine per day between Sydney and Brisbane; and twice daily between Newcastle and Brisbane.
In total, the airline has added a further 78,000 weekly seats between the three states by January 2021, after they finally opened to each other on Tuesday.
It comes as Qantas and Jetstar said last week its flying schedule will rebound to 60 per cent of pre-COVID levels and it would add an extra 1,200 return flights into Queensland from NSW and Victoria.
Premier Palaszczuk had repeatedly stated that she would only open her state up to areas that have recorded a month without so-called community transmission – that is cases of COVID where no source of the infection can be traced.
Those rules meant Queensland opened up to NSW on 10 July but closed to Sydney on 1 August and then to all of NSW and the ACT again a week later. Despite opening for a second time to the ACT on 25 September and NSW on 20 October, the city of Sydney was excluded.
While the borders were always open to essentials travellers, they were effectively closed for all mainstream commercial flying.
The bizarre restrictions meant those from Sydney could potentially travel to Queensland but had to first spend 14 days outside the city. Travellers could also fly from Sydney Airport but couldn’t stop anywhere in the city en route.
Premier Palaszczuk said the decision was made after “extensive conversations” between her chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young, and NSW’s counterpart.
Queensland’s Deputy Premier, Steven Miles, called the announcement “a great day for Australia”.
In October, Australian Aviation revealed that Queensland’s continued refusal to open its borders to Sydney caused the latter’s domestic passenger traffic to flatline in September after plunging 70 per cent the previous month.
In a statement to the ASX, Sydney Airport said it welcomed 98,000 passengers in September, up only slightly from 91,000 in August and down significantly from 276,000 in July.
Sydney Airport also revealed it welcomed 34,000 international passengers in September, down slightly from 39,000 in August.