Review: Rex Saab 340 economy class

With 36 seats at most, Rex's Saab 340s are tiny turboprops that bring welcome competition to QantasLink.

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, June 28 2021
Rex Saab 340 economy class
Route

Canberra to Sydney

Aircraft Type

Saab 340

Airline

Regional Express

Flight

ZL1834

Cabin Class

Economy

Seat

5B (aisle)

Notes
The Good
  • Great fares from just $99 one-way
  • Enjoy a free snack or two, even on these short hops
The Bad
  • Soft drinks, beer and wine are chargeable, versus free on QantasLink after 5pm
  • 15kg checked baggage allowance on some fares
X-Factor
  • Until June 30, every Rex passenger gets gratis lounge access at Canberra Airport
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Taking Qantas head-on for passengers zipping between Australia's national capital and its most populous city, Rex is tempting travellers with fares from just $99 one-way.

Including checked baggage, free drinks and snacks, and even airport lounge access for every passenger, here's what Rex experience entails between Canberra and Sydney, aboard the Saab 340.

Check-in

  • Checked baggage allowance:
    • 1x15kg: Saver and Promo fares
    • 1x23kg: Saver and Promo fares with a Rex Boeing 737 connection (such as Sydney to Gold Coast)
    • 1x23kg: Flex fares, regardless of itinerary
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 7kg total weight on all fares, including one standard piece and one personal item.
  • Airport check-in: At Canberra Airport, check-in is only possible at a staffed bag drop counter – kiosks are not available, nor can boarding passes be printed in Canberra's temporary Rex Lounge.

Lounge

Although Rex is new to Canberra Airport, the airline is already offering a temporary Rex Lounge facility. 

A temporary space in what would normally be the airport's international departures area, it's currently open to every Rex passenger until at least the end of June: and yes, that includes first-time flyers (and regular travellers) in economy.

But here's the catch – while entry is free, all food and beverage is chargeable, and prices are high. This cheese and tomato toastie, standard glass of Chardonnay, and a medium latte for the road costs $32.40, for instance.

Rex plans to open a purpose-built lounge in Canberra, but the timeline – as well as the future entry requirements – are yet to be announced.

Read: Visiting the pop-up Rex Lounge at Canberra Airport

Flight

When travel is unrestricted between the Australian Capital Territory and Greater Sydney, Rex operates up to 35 return flights per week between Canberra and Sydney. 

These are all served by the airline's Saab 340 turboprop planes, which fly with a maximum of 36 seats.

Seat

Configured in a 1-2 layout, passengers aboard the Saabs can choose either a solo seat, or a pair: 

Some of these planes have a refreshed cabin interior as below, but regardless of the seat's design, the layout remains the same.

With a standard seat pitch of 31 inches, there's just enough room for your knees without them touching the seat in front, provided you haven't over-filled the storage pouch.

For a little extra space, aim for the exit row. It's not as roomy as the exit on Rex's Boeing 737s, but it still gives one inch of 'Rextra Legroom'.

Exit row seats can be pre-purchased for just $10 per person per sector on Rex's Saab services, versus $15 on its Boeing 737 flights, including Canberra-Melbourne.

The same charge applies whether you're booking the pair above or the solo seat, and it's a small price to pay for extra comfort, even on such a short leg.

In any case, each seat provides a single storage pouch, and small bags can be stored underneath the seat in front – except in the exit rows where the overhead lockers must be used for anything that doesn't fit in the seatback pouch.

A sturdy tray table stands ready for any quick laptop work, with a notch to keep your drink from spilling during bumpy weather.

Each passenger also gets a reading light and a personal air vent, which is always appreciated.

Also to note, Rex's Saab seat measure up at 18.5 inches wide versus 17 inches on the comparable QantasLink Dash 8, giving those with broad shoulders a little extra comfort.

Meal

After take-off, refreshments were promptly offered with a choice between a sweet or savoury snack, plus tea, coffee and water. 

Hot drinks are poured after that first pass, as these planes have only a single crew member – but still, that didn't take long.

Before clearing the cabin for landing, a second snack was offered too, with options including soya crisps, choc honey crunch bites and chocolate cookies.

However, you'll need cash for beverages beyond the complimentary tea, coffee and water, with soft drinks priced at $4, light beer at $6 and other beers and wines at $7.

As we've previously commented, it'd be great to see Rex accept card payments inflight – as competitors Virgin Australia and Jetstar offer, with no minimum spend – as many travellers (including this writer) simply don't carry cash.

Entertainment & Service

Aside from the inflight magazine, any entertainment on your Rex flight is what you bring with you – and if you have noise-cancelling headphones, you'll want to pack them. 

As you'd expect, service is brief, but friendly – and before you know it, you'll be at your destination.

With fares from just $99 between Canberra and Sydney, Rex certainly brings some much-needed competition to the route, while providing travellers with good value for money.

Also read: Qantas vs Rex on the short Sydney-Canberra hop

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Regional Express.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1262

$32.40? It takes a certain chutzpah to be charging those kinds of prices for a sandwich, table wine and coffee.

Qantas

22 Oct 2012

Total posts 295

Chris, you're right about bringing your noise-cancelling headphones.  You REALLY NEED them on the Rex Saab 340.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 415

Not sure why REx was “new” to CBR?

REx had Syd to CBR route between 2002 to 2004 and even had a REx lounge at CBR which is mostly unmanned (a bit like some regional QF club) where the staff on duty only fill up the self serve fridge and only show up between flights to clean the lounge 

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 415

BTW no mentos sweet? Geez the service is not the same as before 


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