Regional Express will offer business class aboard its Boeing 737 flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from early next year – and if things go well, wants to have as many as 40 jets linking every capital city across Australia.
The March 1, 2021 debut of Sydney-Melbourne flights would begin with nine daily return flights, Rex Chairman Lim Kim Hai revealed at today's CAPA Live conference in Singapore.
With six leased Boeing 737 jets in its hangars by early April, when Brisbane will join the network, Rex will consider further bulking up its fleet.
“If we see things tracking well, we will start increasing the fleet gradually and constantly," Lim suggested.
"From July onwards, if the environment is favourable, we will be constantly adding aircraft in, at the rate of one every month or one every six weeks."
"By the end of 2022... Rex’s ambition is to be a sizeable domestic airline operator with a fleet of 30 or maybe 40, maybe even more narrow-bodied single-aisle aircraft operating on the domestic network around Australia," Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp elaborated.
“As we bring in more aircraft, we will go to all the other capital cities and major cities in Australia,” Lim added. “It’s an opportunity, but it’s not a certainty yet.”
Rex means business
Part of fighting Qantas and Virgin Australia for a share of the country's most competitive routes will include offering business class as well as lounges.
“Yes, we will be having business class section on board,” Lim confirmed.
Previously, it was known that Rex’s aircraft - all of which were formerly flown by Virgin Australia - would keep those seats, but whether they would be offered as business class or more of a 'premium economy' cabin remained to be seen.
"Better than Virgin, at Jetstar prices"
Speaking on Rex’s broader Boeing 737 proposition, Lim said “we will be offering a product at probably 95% of what any full-service would be offering."
"It may not have all the bells and whistles, but it will be practically everything that a full-service carrier will be offering.”
Economy pricing would be pegged "around the Jetstar level", Lim revealed.
"However, our product offering will probably be superior to Virgin. It will not be as ritzy as Qantas but all the basic elements will be there. The corporate market, the SMEs, will find it attractive."
Lounges part of the equation
Rex's expansion could pave the way for a broader airport lounge network, as well as better lounges at the airports where Regional Express already offers one.
The airline has previously confirmed discussions with Brisbane Airport about opening a new lounge there, ahead of its Brisbane Boeing 737 flights.