Call it the Rex effect: Regional Express has launched another Boeing 737 intercity route to compete against Qantas and Virgin Australia, and once again the fares have come tumbling down.
The regional challenger, which took to the skies with its first Sydney-Melbourne Boeing 737 jet service less than 12 weeks ago, this morning announced it would add the Melbourne-Canberra corridor to its nascent network as of June 10, with lead-in economy fares starting from $69.
"We are sure that both Qantas and Virgin Australia will immediately match our fares as they have done every time," Rex Deputy Chairman John Sharp predicted.
And within hours, to the delight of the Melbourne-Canberra frequent flyer set, he was proven largely right.
Virgin Australia's economy Getaway sale fare plummeted from $185 to a Rex-matching $69 for travel on and after June 10 (to June 9, the higher fares remain in place).
Qantas followed, slashing its $218 Red e-Deal economy ticket by more than 50% to a compelling $99, again as of June 10.
That's admittedly $30 higher than the Rex-Virgin pricing, but Qantas generally positions itself at a premium and can also make the case that its inflight WiFi and business class lounges – to which Platinum-grade flyers in economy have access – will be sufficient to keep most rusted-on Roo followers in its camp.
As before, when it comes to a like-for-like price match, Virgin Australia plays up the advantage of its Velocity Frequent Flyer program as one factor to tilt the scales in its favour; the superior quality of its Melbourne and Canberra lounges would be another.
"We're all about providing travellers with some of the most competitive airfares in the market, alongside premium touches they’ve come to expect such as baggage, seat selection, Velocity points and status benefits," a Virgin Australia spokesman said.
At the time of writing, these cut-price fares stretch through to the end of August, providing a window of opportunity for travellers who want to swap the bone-numbing chill of Canberra's winter for, well, the bone-numbing chill of Melbourne's winter – or vice versa – to do so for less than ever before.