Rex aims for March 2021 start for Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane flights

Australia's regional airline wants a slice of the premium east coast's premium 'golden triangle' traffic.

By David Flynn, June 29 2020
Rex aims for March 2021 start for Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane flights

Regional airline Rex plans to launch flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from 1 March 2021, using an initial fleet of between five and ten single-aisle jets and adopting a similar hybrid model to the rebooted Virgin Australia.

The airline says its has "formed the view that Rex could successfully embark on domestic operations" and that it will "commence preparations in earnest for the operation of an initial fleet of five to ten narrow-body jet aircraft to be based out of Sydney and/or Melbourne to service the golden triangle (Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane)."

The targeted start date of 1 March 2021 is "subject to fund availability and regulatory approval", and locks down plans first floated in May 2020, albeit on a grander scale, with a $200m warchest for ten jets covering not only the east coast capital cities but also the transcontinental trek to Perth.

All the same, even this more modest program for the three-city market will mean new competition to both Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Rex says its capital city flights "will be priced at affordable levels but will also include baggage allowance, meals on board and pre-assigned seating. Booking channels will include both Rex direct and Global Distribution Systems (GDS). Lounge membership will be available for subscription."

ReviewsRex Lounge, Sydney / Rex Lounge, Melbourne

'Hybrid' model

Rex will seek to lease jets from either the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 series, and expects that the current depressed state of the air travel market, these jets would be available at very attractive rates.

The airline said it will adopt a hybrid model, which is more likely to include a 'premium' cabin rather than business class.

This could follow the European business class model where the middle seat in a 3-3 layout remains free – and is perhaps dressed with a temporary plastic shroud, similar to what's done on British Airways' Club Europe services – along with a little extra legroom or recline compared to other economy seats.

Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp, in announcing plans for the east coast capital city service, said with the airline's "expansive regional network of 60 destinations, existing infrastructure in all these capital city airports, superior efficiencies and unbeatable reliability, it will simply be an incremental extension for Rex to embark on domestic operations especially since one out of every ten flights in Australia was already a Rex flight during the pre-COVID days."

Rex estimates the launch of "limited domestic operations" between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will require "a minimum of $30 million," and flagged that it has already received interest from lessors willing to provide $30 million against 15 of Rex’s fleet of 60 unencumbered Saab 340 aircraft.

In addition, Rex has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with manufacturer ATR to "replace and modernise" its current Saab 340 fleet with ATR42 and ATR72 turbo-props, which the airline said "will deliver lower cost per seat and increased revenue and profits."


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.

15 Sep 2012

Total posts 96

Any news on aircraft type? Interesting that Virgin flew an F100 from Adelaide to Orange, NSW and back over weekend. Orange is a major REX base. Were REX secretly checking out the aircraft with intentions of buying a few cheaply from Virgin administrators? The fact that REX announces a start date next day strengthens the rumours

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Aug 2016

Total posts 11

Orange is not a base for REX

It's a place they fly to but the main base for REX is Wagga Wagga

Flight was probably just a charter

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1191

They can do anything they like but it seems like a great way to lose a heap of money. As long as the government doesn't bail them out when it turns to custard, I don't mind.

Agreement to acquire ATR42 to replace SAABs makes sense though. ATR72 would be way too much capacity on most of their routes.

29 Jun 2020

Total posts 2

It already turned to custard back in March and the government bailed them out...don't see why it would be any different next time around.

Rex on a winner. Bain not a done deal for virgin.

Huge gamble.

hardly a huge gamble. They can mortgage their Saab fleet & Qantas or Virgin won't be getting any feed from Rex regional onto golden triangle anymore.

22 Apr 2020

Total posts 8

Hardly a gamble?? Risking the only equity you have to compete with Qantas and Virgin? This is Aviation we're talking about.

Given the way they treat their employees, I hope it's a colossal failure, and it sinks them.

And then in an ideal world for Alliance to pick over the carcass.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 229

Wish them the best - some competition (albeit minimal) now that Tiger is toast wont go astray. Can't imagine it will be last long though.

Even an A320/B737 seems too much plane for the foreseeable short-mid future, especially sans international connectivity.

rex jets will get traffic from their regional flights & at same time rex regional will still get pax from Qantas & Virgin as many places only Rex flies to.

KW72 Banned
KW72 Banned

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 247

I guess this is possible when an airline gets more funding than Qantas and Virgin combined. At a time when every other airline in the world is slashing jobs.

Maybe their new slogan can be Spirit of the National Party, and name the first aircraft Michael McCormack.

30 Sep 2011

Total posts 46

1. Ticketing currently goes Rex (home), to either MEL or SYD then QF and often Rex for the final leg to work in QLD/SA. If I only had to make one through or return booking not 3-6, not change terminals and re check bags, I would enjoy it all more and pay a premium just for that.

2. Tiger has got some cheap planes already to go in more ways than one. i.e. already Aussie cert n rego'ed?

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 90

737s and A320s make sense. Lots of cheap ones atm and I imagine certified engineers/pilots/dispatchers/cabin crew available to operate them. Good luck to them.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 87

Sweet or savoury...???

No thanks Rex.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 71

If they do what that private jet operator did, but open it more toi the public, it'd work bettter.

I'm hearing Sydney-Bankstown, Melbourne-Essendon, Brisbane Archefield and Perth Jandakot on regional turbopropes. THink of them as a HSR operator.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1435

An A220 would be better but they may be too costly but a hefty discount may be had.

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 134

yeah, thats something they could do in the future, should those flights be successful.


22 Jan 2013

Total posts 92

Wish they would add Canberra-Sydney to their list, even if it was a turboprop. Need some serious competition on that route.

CBR/SYD has a huge % of public servants or those going to see public servants, so as most not paying their own fare, it's not a very price sensitive route + CBR airport charges are apparently amongst highest in the country.

08 Jul 2015

Total posts 23

I reckon they will struggle big time with no FF scheme or at least one with benefits similar to QF and VA.

16 Dec 2016

Total posts 48

Disgraceful that the only reason this is even possible is because of John Sharpe's direct line to the National Party. Why should our taxes be thrown at this folly when every other airline is struggling? Cronyism are it's absolute worse and should be investigated.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Rex aims for March 2021 start for Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane flights