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Capacity wars return as Rex aims to grow 737 fleet from 6 to 14

written by Hannah Dowling and Adam Thorn | December 8, 2021
This Rex 737-800, VH-RQP, was delivered to the airline in March 2021 and is 11 years old. (Victor Pody)

Australian aviation’s new capacity wars appear to be back on after Rex said it would aim to significantly expand its 737 fleet from six to 14 to support its growing domestic operations.

The news comes as new rival Bonza announced this morning it was to expand its fleet from two to eight in its first year, and Virgin similarly said it would grow its collection of 737s from 56 to 84.

Talking at today’s CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit in Sydney, Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said the business hadn’t finished expanding.

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“Next year we intend to go to all capital cities around Australia and indeed to include our growth to some of the larger regional centres, particularly on the east coast of Australia,” said Sharp.

He added Rex’s rapid expansion was made possible because COVID caused “thousands” of aircraft to hit the market at low prices, with lessors “happy to accept any price”.

The pandemic also led to Rex being able to hire staff recently made redundant from larger rivals Qantas and Virgin.

In November, Australian Aviation reported how Rex would launch flights between Brisbane and Sydney and Brisbane and Melbourne this month, completing the airline’s goal to service the so-called “Golden Triangle” of Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane.

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Rex has also expanded its capital city network to include flights between the Gold Coast and Adelaide, and Sydney and Canberra.

“We’ve also been growing our regional network during the course of the pandemic,” said Sharp on Wednesday. “But the first thing we had to do was to keep it going. And throughout the pandemic, we’ve maintained services to all of our network around Australia, around 65 destinations in every state exception of the Northern Territory.

“Earlier this year, we commenced services from Sydney to Coffs Harbour and Sydney to Port Macquarie and only last week, we announced we would be increasing our services in regional Queensland where we won six of the seven regulated Queensland government routes.”

Rex’s announcement that it will acquire more 737s comes alongside similar moves from its rivals.

On Wednesday morning, Bonza said it would acquire eight 737 MAX 8s, a more fuel-efficient version of the -800 variant used by Rex.

Virgin has also made numerous increases to its 737 fleet since it emerged from administration late last year and is now aiming to fly 84 737s as well as expanding its staff.

The Qantas Group currently has Australia’s largest collection of aircraft, with nearly 300 across its Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar brands.

Long term, it plans to renew its narrow-body fleet, which will see more than 100 new aircraft arrive by 2034.

5 Comments

  • Ashley

    says:

    …& where’s Sharp getting the funds to lease 8, 2nd hand Boeing’s from?

    From a finance company, or his Singaporean bosses’?

    Considering Rex’s $ losses’ for the last two FY’s, these are interesting questions’.

    His leasing costs’ now must be extremely high, so another 8 jets’ would bring those into the stratosphere.

    His previous load factors’ on the SYDMELSYD flights’ were as low as 10%.

    His constant verbal tantrums at QANTAS since March 2020 hasn’t won him any customers’.

    Let’s see if he puts his money where his big mouth is.

  • chris

    says:

    These criticisms could have been levelled at one R.M. Ansett back in the 1950’s, when his minnow carrier Ansett Airways took on the might of Australian National Airways. Ironically, QF ended up naming one of their A380’s after him.

    • Geoffrey

      says:

      Commercial flying had only just begun in the 1950’s.

      What happened then bears absolutely NO relevance to today’s world of flying.

      Your ‘hero’ was a misogynist, & not worthy of being named on a QANTAS A380, which many people argued against at the time.

      We’ve seen this comment from you many times, so give it a rest.

      • chris

        says:

        Those alleged “many people” that you allude to were clearly in a minority. With QF’s resources, they would have thoroughly checked out the facts before naming their a/c.

  • chris

    says:

    Commercial flying commenced in the 1920’s, not the 1950’s!

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