Rex eyes Sydney-Canberra flights

Now a Qantas-only route, the capital city corridor could see Rex add both Boeing jets and Saab turboprops to the mix.

By David Flynn, March 2 2021
Rex eyes Sydney-Canberra flights

Regional Express could add Canberra to its growing network in the coming months, with direct flights between Sydney and the national capital.

Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp told Executive Traveller the route, if it goes ahead, would be served by a mix of Boeing 737 jets and the airline's regional workhorse Saab 340B turboprops.

The 176-seat Boeing 737s, which are now darting between Sydney and Melbourne but will soon also take Adelaide and the Gold Coast under their wing, would be assigned to peak services while the smaller 33-seat Saabs would be be rostered at off-peak times.

Rex sees its mixed fleet as helping find the right fit for Canberra.
Rex sees its mixed fleet as helping find the right fit for Canberra.

Sharp says that even with four cities already in the airline's nascent jet network, there's room for more once all six of the ex-Virgin Boeing 737s arrive later this month.

"We can do more than those destinations with the aircraft," Sharp told Executive Traveller, stressing the airline's desire to be flexible and that that the proposed 'nine services a day' for Sydney-Melbourne is not locked in.

"The plan is to go to nine return services a day but the plan, our model, is always about suiting the size of the market. I often say we can scale up, we can scale down."

"We want to be in sync with the market, rather than ahead of it or also behind it, and so we've got that luxury of being able to dial up or dial down according to our market."

Another challenge to Qantas

Sydney-Canberra is currently the exclusive domain of Qantas, which flies a mix of QantasLink Boeing 717 jets and Bombardier Q300 and Q400 turboprops.

Virgin Australia has suspended its Sydney-Canberra services, with the capital city corridor now listed as one of over 40 regional routes to be flown by partner Alliance Airlines and its predominately Fokker fleet, with Virgin saying its Boeing 737s "are not appropriate or cost efficient to operate a number of the relevant routes."

None the less, Virgin says it will reopen its Canberra lounge this month.

That lounge precinct includes the invitation-only The Club, with membership enjoyed by many politicians, public service mandarins, business leaders, movers and shakers, although the fate of The Club itself remains unknown.

Also read: Virgin to retain VIP tier, but maybe not The Club lounges


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.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1032

Sort of back-to-the future as Kendell (which merged with Hazelton to become Rex) operated many Saab (and CRJ) services between Sydney and Canberra back in the '90s.  Of course, Kendell was part of Ansett so could access its FF base and could offer Golden Wing Lounge access to customers.  

I can't help thinking Rex may find it a whole lot harder now unless it could somehow access Virgin's customer base and lounges but Virgin would be unlikely to agree to this unless Rex gave up on its mainline business.

23 Jul 2017

Total posts 85

Not quite back to the future, but all I can think of is Compass, Mark I and Mark II. They tried to challenge Ansett and Qantas (or was it still Australian Airlines?) in the 1990s but came a cropper. Too many good businesses try to expand into the realm of their firmly fixed competitors, and through the expansion lose what they had, and the competition failed. I hope this doesn't happen to Rex, but it must not forget its core business, country destinations not, and unlikely to be serviced by Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 206

the Saab 340s are very small even for off peak SYD - CBR, why bother.

I wonder if they have ever looked at the Saab 2000s.

17 Apr 2020

Total posts 15

I worked at CBR airport during the period Kendell provided SAAB service. They were not well-accepted by passengers, being noisy to fly in, having a cramped cabin, and having a limited baggage capacity. Baggage was regularly left behind due to the sheer volume of passengers connecting to international flights, and in summer because of weight restrictions due to a combination of the airport's altitude and the high temperatures. In winter they were very much hampered by visibility restrictions. Seemingly the cloud ceiling hampered landing in CBR until late morning whereas other aircraft types had less restriction. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 28

Would rather catch the Murray’s Bus than the Rex SAAB ....

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 7

I used Rex's Saabs when in Canberra (2000-2005) and found them quieter than Qantaslink's Dash-8s. I like them.

17 Apr 2020

Total posts 15

The DH8-300Q is as noisy, if not noisier than the SAAB 340B. The DH8-400Q is noticeably quieter than the SAAB. A better aircraft for the route, although outdated these days, was the Fokker 50. Given the jet aircraft are uneconomical on the route, the question is which prop aircraft Rex should look at to replace it's ageing prop fleet. The ATR aircraft which VA previously operated are ideal and come in a range of sizes.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1266

Don't need to go back to the Kendall days... REX flew Sydney to Canberra until late 2004. 

02 Mar 2021

Total posts 3

Rex. This is an airline that has exclusively received hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government last year in an act that was clearly politically aimed and motivated.  Qantas and Virgin received nothing. Constantly being defended by National Party MPs such as Mike McCormack and John Barilaro whenever they have a tantrum, and the airline itself is run by a former National Party MP, John Sharp. Vast majority owned by Singaporean interests and plenty of National MPs federal and NSW have shares in the airline. So much for “Our Heart is in the country”.  While other airlines across Australia and the world are struggling and are grieving for further help, this airline keeps buying planes and planes, hiring staff all over the place and growing their footprint and their network rapidly. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 327

And that is a bad thing because?


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1428

I kind I think you will find most airlines got govt support to keep various routes open. Not quite as one sided as you suggest.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 315

Sorry to be pedantic, but REX aren't really 'buying new planes'.  They're 'leasing' them, probably at a good lease rate considering the current aircraft leasing environment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 689

@Ikin283 ~ sorry, but there are a number of opinions expressed in your post which I would challenge:

"Qantas and Virgin received nothing" - incorrect. Both QF and VA have had access to the Job Seeker and Job Keeper programs for their staff. Additionally, the Federal Government provided a $960 million pool of funds in mid 2020 for airlines to draw down on for airport charges incurred and settled from February 2020.

"buying planes and planes" ? Really? Everything that has been written in the aviation and general - press - has highlighted the ex-Virgin leasing arrangements (which indeed was both fortuitous, timely and extremely smart of Rex).  None of those reports allude to any 'purchase'.

"hiring staff all over the place and growing their network rapidly." Gee, funny that! I suppose when you expand or grow your network rapidly, you might actually need more staff to support those operations? I'm sure Rex (and QF and VA) would love to have B737-800 engineers and LAME-certified staff appear out of nowhere and offer to work for nothing, but that isn't how the real world works. And what do you have against growth and jobs being created in the industry?

"airlines grieving for further help across the world" - I am actually amazed at the incredibly small number of carriers that have declared bankruptcy / reorganisation over the past 12 months. Think Hainan and Norwegian as the two largest and both were in trouble prior to COVID.  SAA and LAN/LATAM were also potential problems pre-COVID. 

Sorry, but have you missed the incredibly significant billions of dollars that the US Government has thrown at the aviation sector on multiple occasions in the past 12 months under the CARES package? The dollar value is absolutely 'staggering'. Did you miss the IAG/BA STG 4 billion pounds bailout by the UK Government, the EU$10 billion bailout of LH by  the German Government, the French and Dutch handouts to AF/KLM, the Italian Government handout to fund yet another Alitalia reorg?  Look at SQ and the 'generosity' of the Singaporean Government and it's Temasek' (recapitalisation) funding. 

The truth is ~ Governments worldwide are bailing out their carriers, both Government and privately owned. All ~ except Australia. However, there is discussion that when the Job Seeker / Keeper programs end, that the Federal Government may actually come up with some needed assistance to our tourism and aviation sectors. 

QF in particular has managed to continue for 12 months, effectively without any revenue. A challenge well met, which could not have been done by most other carriers. With the exception of Govt owned NZ, no other international carriers have faced the shutting down of borders to the extent QF has.

One thing that COVID has provided is the evidence of which airlines are generally 'well-managed'.

Rex has influential friends in high places.  It received a disproportionate amount of Govt aid.  A good article in the AFR you may wish to read titled "Rex received more taxpayer cash than Qantas and Virgin combined!"

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 689

[email protected]

Rex undoubtedly "has influential friends in high places" given their connection to country / regional areas and their association with the National Party. However, they are NOT alone and you can be sure that QF / Alan Joyce as well as VA / Jayne Hrdlicka have just as many (if not more) connections.

Your quoted article is dated 14 May, 2020 so is waywardly out of date. In any case, the somewhat biased article indicated that Rex received $67 million out of $100 million from 3 packages (mainly the Regional Airline Funding Assistance package and also the Regional Airline Network Support package). It is natural that Rex would receive a somewhat larger share than QF / VA, since it's regional / country network is relatively larger.

You fail to note that both QF and VA were able to access the Australian Airline Financial Relief Fund, which - as I understand it - was where their greater share(s) came from

13 May 2019

Total posts 1

@Ikin283 well I see others have set you straight and put you in your place, cuz hardly anything you said was reality

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 459

Hundreds and hundreds of millions ?   The number I saw reported was $65 million.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 141

With a decent and regular train servicing Canberra, where a city station would be required, the carbon costs of air travel on such a short sector would be greatly reduced. 4 hours on the current Xplorer isn't good enough though.

03 Jan 2013

Total posts 52

The irony is the Xplorer is capable of a decent speed, last time I traveled on it I gps clocked 143kph between Tarago and Goulburn. That is a speed that makes a 2.5 to 3 hour trip possible on the existing rolling stock.  What let’s it down is neglected track infrastructure, poorly maintained bridges and network congestion. Even the tilt-train tested in the late 80s or early 90s managed a 2.5 hour trip, qld operates this train now.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1428

Nix I have been getting it quite regularly, and it can move at quite clip. There is a faster train project to upgrade tracks which has been staffed and has with design funding, which should sort out the tracks a bit, and the new trains have faster acceleration and a higher top speed so in a couple or three years may be down to 3.5 ours and with the  some new alignment from Mittagong to Campelltown  will be slower to happen, but will bring it down to 3 hours, and help commuting from Mittagong.

03 Jan 2013

Total posts 52

Good to know something is happening, thanks for that update. The explorer service is good - 2 classes, buffet service, roomy cabin and big windows.

03 Mar 2021

Total posts 2

ZL received $54m of Government Assistance. VA/QF received none of this - Page 5 of the Senate inquiry.;query=Id:%22committees/commsen/371af097-5432-41d3-9297-10ed0472a72a/0000%22


31 Jan 2018

Total posts 1

Rex has been a life line for those of us in the country that need to get to capital cities for work, education and family. Rex serviced Wagga with flights to both Sydney and Melbourne. Whereas Qantas often paid lip service to us here flying just to Sydney and often cancelling flights without notice. I don’t recollect Qantas offering a Melbourne service for us.  Many towns smaller than us only have Rex to service them.

Those of us in the country really need Rex to be supported by government 

05 Dec 2017

Total posts 12

Rex absolutely received public funds over and above what could reasonably be claimed as fair and it was absolutely because of its Chair being a former National Party MP. All airlines received jobkeeper and a reprieve on air operating fees, the latter being moot for airlines barely operating.

This support was designed to keep them afloat. And yet inexplicably Rex turned around and injected $200 million in capital from its foreign owners to expand into jet services. Yet Virgin was denied the same public money and told to go raise the capital from its foreign owners, just to survive.

So absolutely the Rex bailout was a grossly unfair public handout. There was a joke in Canberra... Rex's heart ain't in the country, it's in Canberra.

Handy to have good mates in high places.

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