The former Virgin 737 suspected of being acquired by Rex to launch capital city flights on Thursday made its way to Sydney – where the regional airline is based.
Flighradar24 reveals the now notorious VH-VUF msn 34168 departed Wellcamp at 12:50am on Thursday and landed in the NSW capital at 3:28pm.
It comes days after Australian Aviation photographer Lenn Bayliss captured the moment the 737 had its iconic tail branding removed.
Our exclusive was seemingly confirmed earlier on Thursday when Executive Traveller reported the first of six 737s was being “readied for delivery” to Rex’s Sydney base.
The publication also speculated the planes would be “flown by ex-Virgin pilots, backed by ex-Virgin attendants and ex-Virgin engineers”.
Rex previously announced it was close to a deal to lease six 737-800 NG aircraft to fly its new network between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with speculation insisting some were from Virgin’s trimmed fleet.
The purchase was facilitated by PAG Asia Capital, which is set to initially invest $50 million for secured convertible notes that could allow it to hold 23 per cent of Rex’s shares by December.
Rex executive chairman Lim Kim Hai said, “With PAG’s support, I have every reason to believe that Rex can successfully launch its domestic major city jet operations.”
In May, the airline first announced its ambitious plans to take on Qantas and Virgin by expanding its network to service Australian capital city routes, including the coveted Golden Triangle – between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Rex earlier this year recorded an underlying profit before tax of $250,000 and an increase in revenue, from $318 million last year to $322 million in FY20, despite the coronavirus crisis.
The positive results also marked a remarkable turnaround from March, when Rex warned it would have no choice but to announce the “shutting down of its network” if it didn’t receive financial aid, even threatening to stop transporting COVID-19 testing samples.
The strong performance was in part attributed by some to the company accepting $62.1 million of government grants, including JobKeeper and regional aviation bailouts.