Sydney-Melbourne airfare war as Qantas, Virgin respond to Rex

There's a dogfight in the skies above Sydney and Melbourne...

By David Flynn, February 10 2021
Sydney-Melbourne airfare war as Qantas, Virgin respond to Rex

Travellers will be the winners in an airfare war being waged over the Sydney-Melbourne skies between Qantas, Virgin Australia and new challenger Regional Express.

Ahead of its launch of Boeing 737 flights on Australia's most popular route on March, the regional carrier today offered one-way economy fares for $49, or "less than a taxi fare" to the airport, with business class at $199.

Virgin Australia has now matched Rex's gambit dollar-for-dollar, with its own serve of Sydney-Melbourne economy fares at $49 and business class at $199.

Those fares apply across March and are on sale now until 11:59pm AEST on Sunday February 28, 2021.

Part of Virgin's blitz is an offer of double Velocity Points on all eligible bookings made by 17 February 2021.

"We've been inspired to look at new ways to push the envelope when it comes to stimulating the market and getting Australians back in the skies again," a spokesperson for the airline said.

Virgin has also moved to match Qantas by extending its free date-change booking flexibility for travel until 31 January 2022 for bookings made before 30 April 2021.

Jetstar has gone even lower, with selected Sydney-Melbourne flights throughout March now listing at $39.

Qantas has also slashed its own lead-in Sydney-Melbourne economy fares in March to $110 – they previously tended to start at $159. However, business class remains pegged at $716.

Rex entered the Sydney-Melbourne market in late 2020 with already-compelling fares of $79 for economy and $299 for business class, but as its March 1 launch date approaches and with domestic demand picking up as state borders reopen, this three-horse race is moving into a thundering gallop.

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


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.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 106

The big question is will Virgin have enough 2 minute noodle cups to serve to their business class passengers. 

Kidding aside, Virgin do need to clarify their operations as the longer they leave it the more customers they will leak. 

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 51

$199 is business between Syd - Mel, with lounge access ... I have no issues with the snack box which I have had on a few 2.5 hour flights.  The snack box is fine for Syd <> Mel.  Also factor in the status credits etc.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 313

Here we go again.  This isn't going to end well.

Although good for consumers, the two airline rivals to the Qantas group does not have the deep pockets to sustain the capacity war losses in the longer term.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 251

Who has deeper pockets exactly? Qantas? Their the only Aus airline now laden with debt.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 410

Qantas has much deeper pockets than Virgin and Rex combined, having raised $1.5 billion against its Boeing 787s alone, plus close to another $1.5 billion in equity capital. Sure, there's debt in that, but nobody doubts the airline can recover that once international travel resumes, in the meantime it is also cutting $15 billion from its operating costs over the next three years, mostly just from reduced flying, plus $1 billion per year in 'cost improvements' after FY23. AJ has done this before and he knows how to do it again. Qantas can easily outlast Rex and Virgin in any battle here.

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 51

The money Qantas has raised, needs to be repaid! Alas, not in the short term.

Also so does Rex.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 313

Also exiting administration doesn't mean VA's $7B+ debt is wiped out entirely for that matter.  The debtors just took a haircut.

Plus on top of the renegotiated leases on VA's remaining 'leased' 737s, VA still has to pay the mortgages on the remaining 'owned' 737s, which were encumbered (asset-stripped) against the banks by the former owners over the past few years.


qantas is in BIG trouble. The golden triangle is their profit centre.

Many idiots will still fly BNE/SYD or SYD/MEL same day return & pay $1000 to sit in economy, (probably not paying the fares themselves) BUT in this recession, many will jump on $49/$79 fares on Rex or Virgin.

Many will fly Rex for 1st time & find it's no different to Virgin or Qantas.

I hate getting up at 3am AEST to get a 5am AEST flight BNE/SYD to land at 7.30am ADST & be in a meeting before 9am ADST.

I would much rather get a flight sometime during the day, before peak hour in the afternoon, say 1pm AEST, arrive in SYD at 3.30pm ADST, get Uber to hotel & be fresh to go to meeting at 9am next day. If paying only $49 to $79 or a ticket each way, the cost difference pays for a very nice hotel, all meals/drinks & wife could come as well & go shopping & spend $500 or less on stuff & guess what, I've only spent $1000 total.


03 May 2013

Total posts 668

Bain will curse the day they heard the name Virgin; give it time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 131

Agree DanV.

But then, there has never been compelling sustained evidence to suggest that humans really learn from history, the airline industry included.


why would anyone pay more to fly qantas ? They are not that special.

big question now is when does BNE/SYD schedule come out & flights go on sale. Only just over 6 weeks out, or will those flights be postponed due to covid ?

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