The battle for the golden triangle appears to have begun after Rex launched $49 Sydney–Melbourne sale tickets days after Virgin and Qantas’ own sale charged considerably more.
On Monday, Qantas began selling the route for $109 while on 1 February fellow ‘mid-market’ carrier Virgin sold them for $78.
Rex will initially operate nine return services a day between the NSW and Victorian capitals on 1 March using an initial fleet of six leased 737s, with plans to expand its network to Brisbane by Easter.
Wednesday’s announcement is significant because the business originally offered the tickets for $79 in December. Rex also announced it would offer business class fares from $199.
Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said, “Most taxi rides to the airport cost more than $49. This is a wonderful opportunity for travellers to get between Australia’s two biggest cities on a whim to get over the COVID blues.
“Importantly, all fares during this pandemic are covered by Rex’s COVID refund policy, which guarantees full refunds for any flights affected by COVID, even if Rex’s flights are not affected.”
Rex’s aggressive move comes days after Qantas itself trumped Virgin with a significantly more generous policy waiving the fees passengers have to pay to rebook flights.
The new offer means those who book domestic or trans-Tasman flights before 30 April 2021 for travel up to 31 January 2022 won’t have to pay a charge to switch.
Virgin’s equivalent offer covers those who book before the 31 March 2021 for travel until 30 June 2021 – six months earlier. Australian Aviation understands Virgin is set to match Qantas’ deal later this week.
Change fees and booking flexibility has been a key battleground for airlines in the last year. In January, Rex claimed “other carriers” had criticised its COVID refund policy, which allows any passenger affected by border closures to get their money back.
This compares with offers by Virgin and Qantas that only allow refunds if the flight is cancelled by the operator, but not if restrictions change banning certain passengers from flying.
Rex first announced firm details of its golden triangle ticket strategy back in December.
“Rex will begin with nine Sydney-Melbourne return services a day,” announced Sharp. “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 eight to 10 by the end of 2021.
“Rex will offer all the usual perks of a full-service carrier including eight Business Class seats. 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.”
Its shareholder then voted “overwhelmingly” to approve the business’ $150 million investment to launch the route on 29 January.