Rex challenges Qantas, Virgin with $79 Sydney-Melbourne flights

With economy fares starting at $79 and business class from $299, Rex is taking Qantas and Virgin Australia head-on.

By Chris Chamberlin, December 1 2020
Rex challenges Qantas, Virgin with $79 Sydney-Melbourne flights

Regional Express is making good on its promise to challenge Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar for a slice of the lucrative Sydney-Melbourne travel market, with sharp prices and inclusions in both business class and economy.

Business class fares for the Boeing 737 flights, which take off on Monday March 1 2021, begin at a very competitive $299 one-way: inclusive of lounge access, an inflight meal, checked baggage and more.

As previously reported, Rex's Boeing 737 jets are all drawn from Virgin Australia's former leased fleet and retain the same eight business class seats, albeit redressed to remove the Virgin logo.

Look familiar? Rex's Boeing 737s are ex-Virgin Australia, including the seats.
Look familiar? Rex's Boeing 737s are ex-Virgin Australia, including the seats.

In economy class, fares are currently on sale at $79 one-way – with 100,000 seats available at this price – with regular ticket prices normally beginning at $99.

Rex has also retained Virgin's extra legroom 'Economy X' seating at rows 3, 4, 5, 13 and 14 for an additional $15 'Advance Seat Selection' fee.

Rex's Boeing 737s include 'Rextra Legroom' seats, which Virgin used to call Economy X.
Rex's Boeing 737s include 'Rextra Legroom' seats, which Virgin used to call Economy X.

Fares for the Sydney-Melbourne flights went on sale as of December 1, and Executive Traveller understands they are already being snapped up.

Rex will extend its nascent Boeing 737 network to Brisbane as of April 2021, with those fares likely to go on sale in early January 2021.

Also to come is a revamped version of the regional airline's Rex Flyer loyalty program, which previously ran on a 'coffee card' concept of buying nine flights and getting the tenth free.

Unpacking Rex's Boeing 737 fares

Regional Express divides its fares into seven categories: four in economy and three in business.

Even the entry-level Community and Promo fares include checked luggage plus a complimentary inflight snack, and tea, coffee and water.

However, as you'd expect, almost everything else costs you extra – such as $6 for seat selection and $35 to change your flight – or falls under the 'not allowed' banner, such as changing the passenger's name or cancelling the flight.

There's no seat selection fee on the higher-level Saver tickets, which also allow the journey to be cancelled and credited to a Travel Bank.

As well, passengers on Saver fares can purchase airport lounge access for $33, where available.

Travelling under the top-priced Flex economy ticket offers half-price access to Rex airport lounges, and unlocks refunds to the original form of payment (with a $33 fee).

It also bumps your cabin baggage allowance from 7kg to 10kg on jet routes, among other advantages:

Rex Boeing 737 business class

Passengers at the pointy end of the plane can choose between Biz Saver, Biz and Biz Plus business class fares.

The $299 Biz Saver fare is half the price of the topmost $599 Biz Plus fare, although the core experience is similar across all three.

One difference is that Biz Saver passengers get 10kg of carry-on baggage, whereas Biz and Biz Plus get 15kg (with up to 10kg being in a single item).

All business class fares (as well as Flex economy) let you move onto an earlier flight – something Rex calls Get Me Home – at no charge.

Flexibility rules also loosen as you climb the fare ladder. Biz Plus fares allow flight changes with no fee prior to the scheduled departure time, as well as name changes without fee: handy for business travellers who need to send a colleague in their place.

Rex's Sydney-Melbourne schedule

With up to nine flights per day between Sydney and Melbourne, travellers will have plenty of choice as to when they fly.

Here’s what Rex’s flight schedule looks like from Sydney to Melbourne on most days of the week:

Rex (ZL) flight number

Departs Sydney

Arrives Melbourne

ZL9

7am

8:35am

ZL23

8:30am

10:05am

ZL31

9:30am

11:05am

ZL105

12:30pm

2:05pm

ZL113

1:30pm

3:05pm

ZL121

2:30pm

4:05pm

ZL145

5:30pm

7:05pm

ZL153

6:30pm

8:05pm

ZL161

7:30pm

9:05pm

In the opposite direction from Melbourne to Sydney, your flight options are as follows on most days:

Rex (ZL) flight number

Departs Melbourne

Arrives Sydney

ZL10

6am

7:30am

ZL18

7am

8:30am

ZL42

10am

11:30am

ZL50

11am

12:30pm

ZL102

12pm

1:30pm

ZL132

3pm

4:30pm

ZL142

4pm

5:30pm

ZL152

5pm

6:30pm

ZL182

8pm

9:30pm

Bookings between Sydney and Melbourne can now be made via travel agents and the Regional Express website, which thankfully has been overhauled to becomer far more attractive and user-friendly.

Brisbane and beyond...

Rex will kickstart its Sydney-Melbourne flights with three Boeing 737 jets, and add two more to bring Brisbane under its wing at the start of April 2021.

That ambitious assault on Australia’s lucrative ‘golden triangle’ between the east coast capitals could later extend to Canberra, Adelaide and Perth, according to the airline’s investor deck for what it termed Project Mother.

“If our (triangle) services prove successful, we will inject up to 10 aircraft into the domestic market by the end of 2021,” says Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp.

“From there, we intend to develop a full domestic airline network, linking all the capital cities over time.”

The airline is chasing a mid-market position, with fare prices comparable to Jetstar, but with inflight service and inclusions more along the lines of Virgin Australia.

Also read: Rex to join Virgin Australia in a race to the middle ground

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 90

Looks like a fairly good proposition with reasonably cheap fares and a good standard of inclusions.  Also quite a good schedule of flights. 

On another note they've finally updated their website, looks a lot better. 

Rex should not have $99 fares at 7am Mon-Fri or any peak hour flight eg. between 4 & 6pm.

This is where the profits are. Then again there are probably stuff all seats at these times.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 784

Loss-leader, or making $5 a seat is better than nothing. Anyhow, it gets bums on seats to try the Rex way of doing things. 

18 Jul 2018

Total posts 28

Who needs profits when you have the right political connections to have a hand in the public purse?

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1242

The connecting regional Rex flights will pay much more than that.

looking at Rexs initial sched SYD/MEL/SYD - does it seems strange to anyone else that there are no flights between MEL & SYD between 1700 & 2000 but plenty SYD/MEL ?

Also, with Rexs initial small jet fleet, should they be thinking about departures before 0600 Mon-Fri to get maximum use out of jet fleet.

AFAIK the 0500 flights out of BNE to SYD & MEL work quite well. Obviously introduced due to lack of daylight saving in Qld.

Also, re SYD curfew, presume you can take off before 0600, but surely you can leave gate ?

so why could rex have a flight out of SYD at 0545, which obviously couldn't take off before 0600 sharp.

Out of MEL couldn't they do an 0500 departure, which wouldn't arrive SYD before 0625 ?

Also for month of March no flights SYD/MEL after 1930 except Fri & Sun nights ?

Can understand Sat, but Mon-Thu ? 1930 is 3 1/2 hours before curfew kicks in. Not suggesting they should have a flight at 2200 or 2230, but maybe 2000, 2030 or 2100 ?

Sometimes business meeting go late & getting to airport in peak hour can take a while, so someone could easily miss a 1930 departure ?

Got to maximise use of the expensive buses.

Crew surely aren't an issue.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1242

Regular their connecting flights are more into Sydney than Melbourne may have something to do with it. 

it's not all about connecting flights.

Many do day trips SYD/MEL early Mon-Fri, mostly back after 1600, but only 2 flights 1700 & 2000 ????

3 hours apart is too long.

Hopefully they'll fill this gap fast.

Think they should get SYD/MEL/SYD with more frequencies before starting SYD/BNE/SYD.

typo above

should read

Also, re SYD curfew, presume you CAN'T take off before 0600, but surely you can leave gate ?

QF Plat

14 Jul 2014

Total posts 24

I fly VA from Sydney to Gold Coast today on a $255 ticket one way and picked up 4811 points by lunch time. I wonder what points REX will have in the bag.

bert

rex won't be flying to Gold Coast for quite a while I suspect. Goldie is not a high yielding route, like BNE is.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2011

Total posts 269

Rex plans to have a new or updated FF system next year.

Right now, you get 2 free (exc tax/charges) flights for every 18 booked.

But they know what they have planned, and we haven't got any info as yet.

Maybe if they (Rex) has a FF points system where points have a life of 3 years, and any activity will have a bearing on the life of their FF points, maybe their new FF system would be a good thing.

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 25

Does anyone know which terminals are going to service these flights in Sydney and Melbourne and where are the lounges?

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 25

Found it!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2011

Total posts 269

They still have their gates at T2 at SYD airport, don't they?

I think their lounge is there as well.

MEL probably would be T4, with a made do lounge, (if they already have one there), haven't had the need to use MEL T4 yet.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 65

That two way schedule looks very promising. And the prices are good. This longtime QF and VA customer will definitely try Rex at the first opportunity. I suppose for Rex management that's half the battle won isn't it? Get those loyalists to at least 'try' Rex and make it worthwhile for them to stick around.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 207

Best of luck to them and good to see reasonable and sensible prices return to SYD-MEL. Qantas Business by comparison is $950!

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 362

Presumably they will be using airbridge instead of bus shuttle or mobile stairs?

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 38

I'll be the first to try. Here's hoping they become the Southwest Airlines of Australia. SWA are no longer very cheap but their domestic service is superior to Qantas domestic (two checked bags free, no change fees, friendly staff). The only thing that makes Qantas domestic economy good is the quality of people flying with you, being mostly seasoned business travellers and not budget tourists likely to annoy you, and sometimes better terminals (although Qantas domestic terminal in MEL is a third world dump)

hewnix

Southwest(WN) still have some very good sales. Was looking week or so ago for California to Denver. US$50 one way inc 3 not 2 checked bags (3rd being skis) from any of 5 airports in LA, 3 in San Fran + San Diego & Sacramento.

Realistically, Virgin passengers not that different to Qantas passengers, maybe just more price conscious. Jetstar passengers are different from what I've seen, but then again, when using Qantas ff pts to get to Cairns, sometimes Jetstar ff seat/time availability, means we fly them instead of Qantas/Virgin.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 362

I wonder what you would call the rex/jetstar end of MEL airport then :). Or were you lucky enough not to have to use them?

04 Jun 2018

Total posts 22

It’s mostly good news on an otherwise duopoly-like market. However, I wonder if Rex lounges will be made unavailable to PriorityPass and LoungeKey due to capacity constraints once operations ramp up in SYD and MEL.

Hi vitorsyd, I asked John Sharp about this in an interview yesterday, and his reply was that Rex is quite happy with Priority Pass (et al) and plans to keep that arrangement going forward, particularly with the larger lounge Rex will build in Sydney, and the expansion they'll undertake in Melbourne.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 403

Melbourne really does need expanding, last time I peeked it was about the same size as (or smaller than) a McDonalds/KFC restaurant (no offense intended to Maccas or the Colonel, REX can never match your meals).  Perhaps REX can offer better fries than offered in Qantas/Virgin - that would indeed be cunning of them.  

actually just looked at early March & Southwest(WN) still doing US$50 one way LAX/DENVER

19 Jun 2020

Total posts 23

What I find amazing is that Rex has been able to lease planes, organise gates etc, articulate their class strategy, publish dates, prices etc . At the same time Qantas have announced a customer poaching strategy by allowing Virgin customers to access Status and Lounge access.

Virgin have still not given us a clear strategy on a number of these issues especially status, FF programs, lounges etc. Virgin will lose half of their business real quick if they don't hurry up. 

Good on Rex for showing some leadership and just maybe they will succeed and take the number two position. 

Virgin needs to get off their backside and announce their full plan - not just saying a couple of lounges will open up before it is too late.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 120

Well Rex still has to reveal all the details of say business class meals and it might not yet have finalised airport gates, but I understand what you're saying, Bain has had plenty of time to get VA2 in place, from when it entered the buyer's ring it had full visibility of all the numbers in the 'data room' let alone once it was confirmed as Deloitte's choice. I think Bain has decided not to prioritise business class because December-January are the low months for business travel, but it really needs to get out there and lay out its new business class plan because a lot of Virgin flyers would be nervous in this vacuum, not only about business class but also the lounge f&b proposition, routes to be dropped owing to a much smaller B737-only fleet etc. No wonder Qantas launched its status match!

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 72

Shame they didn't pick up some cheap airbus aircraft, instead of dodgy Boeing 737's.

That would have GUARANTEED me flying with them.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 784

I'll bite - why do you say their Boeing 737s are "dodgy"?

PI

to put it in perspective

read that Rexs initial B738s are no more than 15 years old. Quite a large % of Qantas B738s IIRC were bought/leased straight after SEP11, so 17, 18 or 19 years old.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Feb 2020

Total posts 14

That “get me home” option for lower cost fares is a great idea. Nice to see a version of “standby” come back..

johnw

& collecting $55 a time, rather than free. 

Multiply that by a few 1000 a week & it starts to add up.

Very few business types would baulk at a paultry $55 to get home few hours earlier.


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