Regional Express plans to follow the launch of Sydney-Melbourne flights on March 1, 2021 by adding Brisbane to the network in early April.
The move will allow the airline to quickly build its footprint on the ‘golden triangle’ between Australia’s three east coast capital cities as it seeks to take advantage of a return in domestic travel demand.
However, it will also increase the competitive stakes on these lucrative routes which will be heavily defended by Qantas and Virgin Australia.
Rex had previously slated the Queensland capital for the second half of 2021, with the airline’s Deputy Chairman John Sharp indicating to Executive Traveller earlier this year that its first six Boeing 737 jets would be dedicated to the Sydney-Melbourne route.
The airline now says that it will begin flying “to Brisbane from Easter”, which this year falls on Sunday April 4, 2021.
Discussions are already underway with Brisbane Airport about opening a Rex lounge in the domestic terminal, to complement its Sydney and Melbourne lounges.
More jets, and more cities, to follow
A fleet delivery schedule sighted by Executive Traveller shows that all six of the leased Boeing 737 jets – which were formerly flown by Virgin Australia – are set to be delivered by the end of March.
“If our services prove successful, we will inject up to 10 aircraft into the domestic market by the end of 2021,” Sharp says. “From there, we intend to develop a full domestic airline network, linking all the capital cities over time.”
Despite the bullish east coast press, Sharp says the airline will exercise caution as it looks to the future growth of both its fleet and its network.
“We'll be very careful and we will take things in stages as we see the market growing,” he tells Executive Traveller.
“It’s a bit like having a weather vane really, we'll be looking to see how the weather is, what the weather is doing, and then we’ll adjust our behaviour accordingly.”
Growing Rex’s Boeing 737 fleet
As with the first six members of Rex’s Boeing 737 fleet, additional jets will be drawn from the former Virgin Australia pool, and in a two-class configuration of eight business class and 168 economy seats.
“All we're looking at are the ex-Virgin aircraft, of which there are many and they’re VH-registered, so it’s pretty efficient way of expanding your fleet,” Sharp tells Executive Traveller.
“And there are hundreds and hundreds of these aircraft parked around the world so it's a bit of a buyer's market at the moment.”
Rex, not Cex
Despite building up a dedicated capital city network, Sharp says the airline will retain its Regional Express branding for the Boeing 737 service.
“We looked at other names” Sharp admits, “we looked at City Express but that had all sorts of connotations when you abbreviated it, so we thought that probably wasn’t very appropriate” he reflects with dry humour.
“So we’re sticking with Rex. The brand's been around 18 years, it’s well known by travellers and we have a reputation for giving passengers a very good level of service."
"We think that brand is a good brand to leverage off for the launch of new domestic airline operations."