Rex trims Sydney-Melbourne flight schedule for March

The capital city challenger will run a pared-back timetable for the opening week of its Sydney-Melbourne Boeing 737 flights.

By David Flynn, February 22 2021
Rex trims Sydney-Melbourne flight schedule for March

Regional Express has cancelled some of its Sydney-Melbourne flights for the first week of March, just as the airline mounts its ambitious challenge to Qantas and Virgin Australia for east coast Boeing 737 jet services.

Rex will instead begin its assault on the nation's most popular air travel route with only one aircraft flying three return services per day, with one of those services suspended on March 1 – the prestigious launch day of inaugural flights – in order to "accommodate launch ceremonies in both Melbourne and Sydney," a Rex spokesman tells Executive Traveller.

The spokesman said the drop in first-week frequency was triggered by Melbourne's recent COVID-19 outbreak, which saw Terminal 4 – home to Regional Express, among other airlines – classified as a key coronavirus exposure site after a positive case worked one shift at T4's Brunetti Cafe.

"Crew have been affected by the Melbourne Airport outbreak and are in compulsory 14-day quarantine," the spokesman said. "As a result, we need to reduce our services for the first week to one aircraft with three returns."

Several Executive Traveller readers who had booked onto Rex's first flights have since been advised by the airline of a "schedule change" and offered to be rebooked onto the next available service.

However, the airline intends to "reach three aircraft and nine returns by the fourth week of March," the spokesman confirmed.

Up next, Brisbane...

Rex has leased six Boeing 737-800 aircraft – all of which previously flew with Virgin Australia, and as such feature Virgin's familiar business class and economy seats and cabin interiors – and plans to add Sydney-Brisbane flights to its nascent jet network in April, with Brisbane-Melbourne to be considered for a later date.

"We don’t want to put a hard and fast date on it, because we feel we need the flexibility in choosing dates that suit us, rather than finding ourselves locked into pre-determined dates," Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp told Executive Traveller in December 2020.

"I think our plan will be to move with the market," and to look at Brisbane-Melbourne flights "as we get more aircraft down the track, and the situation evolves."

However, if things go well, Sharp wants to see as many as 40 Rex Boeing 737s jets linking every capital city across Australia.

"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," Sharp remarked at the CAPA Live aviation conference in November 2020.

Kicking off a price war

For now, Sharp has set his sights on shaking up the Sydney-Melbourne market against incumbents Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar, with cut-rate fares as his opening salvo.

Rex kicked off the sale of its Sydney-Melbourne flights in December 2020 at $79 for one-way economy and $299 for one-way business class, but earlier this month slashed those already-compelling prices to $49 for economy and $199 for business class across March.

Virgin was quick to match Rex dollar-for-dollar, with the added lure of double Velocity Points, while Qantas and Jetstar took a scythe to their lead-in economy fares at $110 and $39, respectively.

Also read: Can Rex win the business class battle against Qantas, Virgin?

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Apr 2013

Total posts 31

This has been a big test on their systems. 

I was booked to fly on the first day and noted the paired back schedule when I went to change flights in response to Qantas change which meant I'd miss my Rex flight. I noted that my booked flight wasn't for sale but it took a number of days for them to notify me of this change. I have been unable to change the flight online before and after their email notification. 

I hope they iron out the kinks soon, its not a good start. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 858

This is not a great sign unfortunately but not entirely unexpected.  Everyone is struggling to fill seats at the moment  with The Australian having an interesting article on Friday regarding the issues Qantas has getting even what would normally be considered poor loads onboard many of its mainline flights.  

For REX, the situation is particularly worrying and suggests their flights remain pretty empty and a quick attempt at booking any sort of return flight combo seems to confirm this.  The 3 daily flights from SYD run at 9:30AM, 2:30PM and 7:30PM.  None of these flight times will attract any sort of business customer.

09 May 2011

Total posts 23

I love their spin on how the blame falls on the "Brunetti's hotspot outbreak" and nothing on perhaps due to  an overall lack of demand to fill all their flights.

I was impacted by this as I was to fly up to Sydney on March 2 . Got an SMS on Saturday 20 Feb advising of a schedule change and for me to call them up. Turns out their call centre is closed all weekend  and to call back Monday at 9am - how very country of them indeed!  

Looks like Rex really need to work on their offering to big city dwellers, otherwise they are in for a very big dissappointment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2020

Total posts 16

Perhaps crew who train were required to isolate for 14 days?  That would explain in part.

21 Apr 2019

Total posts 5

Not a good look but not suprised. And flying the oldest 737's I expect more cancelled flights and mechanical delays.

Not for me.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 173

QF flies plenty of 737s of the same vintage or older, particularly on the golden triangle.

07 Mar 2017

Total posts 48

They're flying planes Virgin used up to last year. Virgin didn't have an exceptional number of cancelled flights of mechanical delays.

09 May 2011

Total posts 23

I love REX's spin on this blaming the "Brunetti hotspot" as opposed to perhaps an overall ability to fill these flights. 

I was impacted by this as I was flying MEL-SYD on March 2. Got an  SMS on Saturday advising of a schedule change and for me to contact their call centre - which turns out is closed on weekends and for me to phone back on Monday at 9am. How very country of them to be closed on weekends! 

Think REX really need to work on their offering to  big city dwellers, or else they'll be in for a rude shock. i really hope Rex can work on the small details and be a success.

On another note - I am unable to even view my booking online - tried several laptops and both IE and Chrome. Frustrating when you want to make minor changes and view details.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 357

Love the excuse of the T4 hotspot. This has lack of ticket sales written all over it

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 578

I don't want to be a negative Nancy but will they last 6 months against the chess master? I was all for everyone working together during Covid but now it’s all fair game. Winners and Losers

QFP

22 Jan 2013

Total posts 70

Unfair to compare a $39 Jetstar fare to virgin or Rex. Add your $45 bundle (to bring you up to same service offering) and it’s really $85 on Jetstar.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 207

Is it only Rex that has reduced flights or have Qantas and Virgin cut back too?

Looking on Monday next week Virgin seems to have only 8 flights that day so wonder if this is what they planned a month ago or if they cut flights too. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2020

Total posts 16

All airlines seem to be cutting flights after putting them on sale.  Confidence seems to be pretty low with all the border closures.

Lmc
Lmc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 78

If our state borders weren’t snapped closed after a few positive cases each time people would book flights!!! 

Qantas had a fantastic sale on..... but no-one has any confidence to book. My general experience is that hotels have been a lot less generous with credits and refunds than Qantas and jetstar etc. 

22 Feb 2021

Total posts 1

I have tickets for the first weekend of March and got the dreaded text message on Saturday morning that my early morning Saturday 6th and late evening Sunday 7th flights had been cancelled.

What's particularly worrying is that their booking management system doesn't even work properly, and they don't actually make it clear what's going on. I had tried using their system a few days earlier just after I booked the tickets to see what I could do, but it just plain did not work. 

They have on their website above the fields where you enter your booking reference, first and last name - "Please note: Our Manage Booking gateway may be offline. [my emphasis] If technical difficulties are experienced, please call our Customer Contact Centre (CCC) on 13 17 13 to make changes to bookings." 

They know it's offline and it's been like that for days or weeks now! They should just say "our website is under maintenance, please call us on XXXXXX to change your booking". Pro tip for the REX web team - if the system is offline, don't leave those broken form entry fields there on the page for people to waste their time with. That's just unprofessional and leaves people frustrated as they wonder why the website doesn't seem to be working. Get rid of those fields from the page and replace them with an apology message.

Anyway, I called the customer service line, got onto someone very quickly. I wanted to change to the last flight on Friday 5th and they accommodated this. But I didn't know until I was off the phone that the seat reservation (which I'd paid $10 for the privilege) was no longer selected, so I'd have to make another phone call to the call centre to get this tiny thing sorted out. Ugh! It's 2021, I should not have to phone up to get something like this changed for a plane ticket of all things.

It is very obvious that they have a brand spanking new front end on their system for bookings, but the back end is out of the ark! I recall booking tickets on their website in December 2019 and it was like I had been transported back to 2002. 

Rex want to become Australia's second-largest airline. Fair enough, I'm happy to support the little small companies who dream big. But a full service airline without a functional way to manage your bookings online? That is absolutely laughable in 2021. No one wants to sit on a phone queue for several minutes trying to suss out what seats are available and what seats aren't. I want all the information at my fingertips, not translated by a phone agent trying to describe what a grid of data in front of them says.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 14

The big test will be how REX manage IRROPS.  Given how they like to burn bridges, don't expect much support from VA, QF or JQ...  

22 Oct 2014

Total posts 14

I wouldn't buy too many flights. No fun being an unsecured creditor


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