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.
“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.
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.