CASA clears Rex to fly new 737s

written by Adam Thorn | March 9, 2021
REX737andSAAB340at
REX’s latest 737, VH-REX, shot in Melbourne by Australian Aviation’s Victor Pody

CASA has given the go-ahead for Rex to fly its latest two 737s, VH-REX and VH-PAG, after taking delivery of the pair last month.

The airline has also confirmed it plans to add an additional two 737s later this month, taking its fleet to four, before adding another two in June.

Rex used the aircraft to begin its service between Sydney and Melbourne on 1 March and will soon expand to operate twice-daily services to both Adelaide and the Gold Coast. Australian Aviation’s Victor Pody has shot one of its latest acquisitions, above.

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On Tuesday, Rex confirmed CASA had authorised the two additional 737s to be added to the airline’s Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).

Rex first achieved its vital “High Capacity Air Operator’s Certificate”, which allows it to fly aircraft with more than 38 seats, from CASA in December 2020.

The clearance means Rex will be able to operate nine returns per day by the last week of March between Sydney and Melbourne.

It will then commence services between Melbourne and Adelaide from 31 March, and then from the Victoria and NSW capitals to the Gold Coast on 29 March and 1 April. It had initially planned to operate services to Brisbane by Easter, but these appear to have been delayed.

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“Rex calls on major cities in Australia to send in their expression of interest if they wish to be the next in line to receive reliable air services at affordable fares delivered with Rex’s trademark country hospitality,” it said in a statement.

The expansion is being financed by a $150 million investment from PAG Asia Capital, which was only signed off by shareholders in January. The pair first revealed they were in advanced negotiations in September 2020, after Rex announced its capital city ambitions in May 2020. Rex’s current fleet is now: VH-REX, VH-PAG, VH-RQC and VH-RQG.

The news Rex is growing out its 737 fleet comes amid a growing row between the regional carrier and Qantas over network expansion.

The disagreement began when Rex said it was to discontinue five regional routes when the government-supplemented financial help expires at the end of March: Sydney–Bathurst, Sydney–Cooma, Sydney–Lismore, Sydney–Grafton and Adelaide–Kangaroo Island.

However, it blamed the decision to axe these routes on Qantas choosing to compete with it on eight separate routes (Sydney—Orange, Sydney–Merimbula, Sydney–Griffith, Melbourne–Merimbula, Melbourne–Albury, Melbourne–Wagga Wagga, Melbourne–Mount Gambier, Adelaide–Mount Gambier).

Rex’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, said, “Qantas has clearly embarked on a deliberate strategy of moving into Rex’s routes that can only support one regional carrier in an attempt to intimidate and damage Rex in its traditional regional market, hoping that Rex would be a less formidable competitor in the domestic market.”

Qantas responded by branding the announcement “a classic Rex tantrum”.

Despite the argument, Qantas ploughed on and formally launched flights on the disputed routes between Sydney and Griffith, and Melbourne and Merimbula.

Last week, in a significant intervention, the ACCC backed Qantas’ decision to launch new flights on previous Rex-exclusive routes.

Finally, Qantas today stepped in to announce it was to operate services between Sydney to Cooma, which is one of the routes Rex has cut.

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