Rex’s first flight from Melbourne to Hobart has landed, bringing the airline’s 737-800 services to Tasmania.
Flight ZL709 touched down in Hobart at 11:30am on Thursday aboard VH-8KH. Rex is now flying daily between the two capitals, complementing its Saab 340 regional services to Burnie, Devonport, and King Island, and adding an extra 128,000 seats per year between Tasmania and the mainland.
Rex deputy chairman John Sharp took a swipe at the carrier’s rivals as he pointed to the strong forward bookings on the new route, which was announced in June.
“With economy fares from Hobart starting at $79 and business class seats from $349, it’s understandable they are being snapped up by those looking for an alternative to the sky-high prices and unreliable services being offered by other airlines. All our flights to the weekend are practically full,” he said.
Jeremy Rockliff, Premier of Tasmania, said the demand for the route is proof that the state’s tourism sector is “firing on all cylinders”.
“We welcome the additional capacity to support not only growth in our visitor economy, but the opportunity to further boost Tasmanian service exports and deliver more options for time-sensitive freight,” he said.
“Victoria is our largest visitor market, and this gives even more options for visitors to come down to Tasmania and enjoy the amazing experiences we have to offer.
“This new service has begun ahead of the busier warmer months, which will be welcome news for local businesses who will benefit from the increase in trade, as well as Tasmanians looking to head interstate.”
Rex has long spoken of its ambitions to expand its 737 operations, with chairman Lim Kim Hai even suggesting last year that its fleet could grow to 30 aircraft over the coming five to seven years.
Sharp revealed the expansion was made possible because COVID-19 caused “thousands” of aircraft to hit the market at low prices, with lessors “happy to accept any price”.
Rex first launched capital city flights in March 2021 after securing $150 million in investment. However, the move triggered a furious row with Qantas, with the smaller airline accusing its bigger rival of “predatory” behaviour for apparently responding by launching services on previously Rex-exclusive routes.