Virgin Australia raced to match Rex’s $39 Sydney–Melbourne deal hours after the regional carrier publicly taunted them to do so.
Rex made the initial announcement at 5am and bullishly predicted there would be “copycat moves” from its larger rivals.
Then, at 11:30am, Virgin rose to the challenge to exactly mimic the deal, which both carriers claim is a first for a non-budget airline.
It marks the latest twist in the sales wars between airlines rebuilding their networks, which previously saw Virgin rush to match Rex’s $49 offer in similar fashion in February.
Rex’s deputy chairman John Sharp said on Monday morning that his initiative would “singlehandedly revive a moribund travel and hospitality industry in the two cities”.
“Since our entry into the domestic market, the cosy duopoly has been completely disrupted and the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) has noted a significant reduction in average airfares in all the domestic routes that Rex covers,” he said.
“This is why Rex is good for Australia and why Australia needs Rex. For the first time ever Australians can have premium reliable domestic air services at honest prices delivered with our trademark country hospitality.”
Sharp also accused its rivals of “disingenuous delaying tactics” in providing COVID refunds and said other airlines “simply do not have the cash” to put money back in customers’ bank accounts.
Virgin said its response was “just one example of how irresistible it is to fly with Virgin Australia”.
On 10 February, Virgin matched Rex’s $49 Sydney–Melbourne offer within hours. Rex’s launch price for the route was $79 in December.
The so-called ‘golden triangle’ between the NSW, Victoria and Queensland capitals is known as one of the most lucrative domestic routes in the world.
Last month, Australian Aviation reported how Rex took delivery of a sixth 737 allow it to continue to expand its new capital city network, which now flights between Canberra and Sydney, the Gold Coast and Adelaide as well as Sydney and Melbourne.
Rex also confirmed it was still planning to take delivery of two more aircraft in July and could grow its fleet beyond eight by the end of 2021.
The business signed off on a $150 million investment in November last year to allow it to expand its operations to fly major domestic routes.