Rex confirms business class, eyes flights to every capital city

Regional Express confirms business class on Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane flights from 2021, with more cities and jets on the horizon.

By Chris Chamberlin, November 12 2020
Rex confirms business class, eyes flights to every capital city

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.

All Rex Boeing 737s are ex-Virgin Australia, and will retain Virgin's business class seats.
All Rex Boeing 737s are ex-Virgin Australia, and will retain Virgin's business class seats.

Read: Rex mulls business class, premium cabin for Boeing 737s

"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.

“Today, we already have lounges,” Lim acknowledged: these being in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. “We will keep those lounges, and may even improve on them.” 

The airline has previously confirmed discussions with Brisbane Airport about opening a new lounge there, ahead of its Brisbane Boeing 737 flights.

Also read: Rex ready to battle Qantas, Virgin on Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane flights

Chris Chamberlin

A Brisbane-based contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris Chamberlin 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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 238

I'd like to understand how they will differentiate from virgin to offer a better business class when the onboard hard product will be exact same and their lounges are subpar to virgins which in turn are subpar to qantas business lounge. At the moment to me it's just is hearsay - they know they can't go after Qantas probably learnt a thing or 2 from virgin doing that as well as not having widebodies.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 136

I don't think they meant "better than Virgin" as in business class specifically, I think he meant it as overall. So it could be a better economy class product than Virgin, which to me can only really be better food and drink - as Virgin has Wifi and IFE and I can't imagine Rex going straight for those. Maybe they could add a few more extras - a larger baggage allowance or some little value-add like that.

At the moment Virgin's business class offering is quite depressed and who know's what Bain is planning to do, maybe Rex is just banking on Virgin's product getting worse. 

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 133

There's one thing Virgin has consistently done well in Business, with a few localized exceptions. That is to reserve the 737 forward toilet for those who have paid more to be in Business. Rex will have to do the same if they want my business.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 795

and priority boarding. VA were very good at that - it just worked. However it was always amusing to be on a peak flight and see more people in PB than regular lane. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2019

Total posts 35

Australia has not traditionally supported three viable mid market competitive airlines. Consumers will certainly have a choice and likely ticket prices will be competitive. I wish them well but they have a tough road ahead.

qantas might gain market share, but probably in low yielding routes. This is not good for qantas as their costs are very high.

If you think about it simplistically, if an airline has 70% of staff per aircraft of another airline, at 70% of pay, their wages bill is less than 1/2. (0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49)

Recession will effect the way many will fly. Many will look for cheaper options. Many will look to fly less often. Some might book early & fly offpeak.

Compare last minute SYD/MEL return for $800 to $1000 flying peak hour in both directions, to flying outside off peak hour for $240 to $300 return. That $560 to $760 price difference can pay for a lot of hotel nights OR 5 star hotel, if needed.

Rex talked about selling tickets from December for 1 March start.

With jobkeeeper ending at end of March, they want to sell as many tickets as possible asap.

Look at for initial fare war between all airlines, maybe starting in next few weeks for March departures SYD/MEL, but not on peak hour flights.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 319

Yep, and many like myself have rediscovered the enjoyment of jumping in the car and driving some of the shorter trips that we would fly before,  my golf clubs live permanently in the car these days, amazing how many nice towns are out there with great golf courses, my flying will be less than half even when everything returns to normal.

the point about wages bills, is that many airlines in past, seemed to have many staff swanning around airports doing or appearing to be doing SFA. Think this might change now.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 248

Given the state of Rex's website, I assume they will offer telefax service as competition to Wifi on Virgin and Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Apr 2017

Total posts 136

That is one area they will have t focus. Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar all have very good websites. If they're going to be rolling out a loyalty scheme and want to attract customers, they need an IT overhaul, and that ain't gonna be cheap. 

Their name is also not exactly synonymous with quality or good value in the areas that they currently serve...


don't forget a huge % of corporate market don't book online, they book through an agent. Not sure of the % for domestic, but something like 60% plus book though agents fpr international, so imagine domestic would be similar.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 373

nothing new there.TAA later Australian now Qantas domestic were pioneers in domestic business class while those Ansett clowns fooled us to believe their economy class was just as good.will people be taken for a ride this time around.

just read on another forum, the suggestion that Qantas & Virgin don't want to get into a price war with Rex on golden triangle, so maybe they'll start throwing around things for flights from 1 March, like 2nd class frequent flyer points, that can only be used on that airline & not in peak hour & within a certain time frame. Put a bit of spin on it & they can make it sound like an added bonus.


09 May 2020

Total posts 478

Unless corporate start seriously using the FF pts redemption to book seats on a large scale basis, otherwise those second tier benefits would not influence corporate behaviour. It may very well attract employees who can earn those FF pts on their own private accounts but not all can dictate or influence which airlines to go with

On the other hand, the last thing QF and VA needed was for big business to use FF rather than hard cash to pay for tickets.

So these ideas may influence small business booking and regular travellers for leisure but not the casual trippers 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2020

Total posts 24

There may well be room for a third airline.  Virgin have been in liquidation and will emerge a smaller carrier.  There’s bound to be many Virgin flyers upset at the no refunds/dodgy flight credits they may well jump ship.


12 Nov 2018

Total posts 14

I doubt they will be able to offer as many bells and whistles as the Qantas of the past, particularly those reserved for the upper echelons of fliers. But I’m sure they may find a comfortable niche among regular fliers. It doesn’t bother me that Qantas have a secret lounge or personal escorts if I never see them. However now that they are discontinuing service desks in airports and lounges. It shouldn’t be hard to compete. 

I encourage everyone to give them a try. It will at least keep Qantas on their game. 


09 May 2020

Total posts 478

Even if they just serve free water and pay-as-you-go inflight meal, that will be no difference with Jetstar or Virgin Blue, except when comparing to

1. JQ, the REx inter capital flights probably has better scheduling and trouble free transfers from regional centres 

2. VA, if Bain’s claims of not returning to LCC roots, REx probably has better price point or should aim to be at least 20% lower than VA products.

A reasonable person simply wants to get somewhere, and only uses the lounge for

1. Waiting for their next flight 

2. Rest and refreshment away from the hordes out there (the prices at the food court, except for the fast foot outlet, prove that assumption “pay for quality” is largely misguided, since the airport premium often meant you pay more for anything)

3. Business printing from time to time

I think it is a great opportunity for Rex - low overheads, leased aircraft, no chain around their necks having aircraft parked up in the desert burning cash - all of the Rex metal will be working and earning revenue. Will appeal to those folk that can’t stand the QF arrogance, wage-theft and bullying behaviour. 

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