Review: Rex Boeing 737 business class, Sydney-Gold Coast

How does Rex Airlines’ premium experience compare to rivals Qantas and Virgin Australia?

Overall Rating

By Chris Ashton, March 12 2024
Rex Boeing 737 business class, Sydney-Gold Coast
Route

Sydney to Gold Coast

Aircraft Type

Boeing 737

Airline

Rex Airlines

Flight

ZL540

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

1A

Notes
The Good
  • Friendly, attentive service
The Bad
  • Inconsistent aircraft interiors
  • Limited lounge network
X-Factor
  • Very generous food portions
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Rex Airlines may have started life in the country under the name Regional Express, but it’s taken to intercity travel like a duck to water on the wings of its growing Boeing 737 fleet.

Unlike rivals Qantas and Virgin Australia, which each sport a distinctive aesthetic from nose to tail on their 737s, the carrier from the bush has a more eclectic array of seats.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, flying Rex is like a box of chocolates – one day you step into a former Silk Air jet, the next a rebranded bird from Virgin Australia.

Two of Rex Airlines' business class seats.
Two of Rex Airlines' business class seats.

The unifying thread throughout is the service, which is best described as good old-fashioned country hospitality.

Lounge

Sydney Terminal 2 is home to one of three lounges in the Rex network – just past the food court, alongside Gate G2. (You’ll find the other two in Melbourne and Adelaide).

Business class travellers, Rex annual lounge members and Priority Pass card holders gain entry by presenting their boarding pass at reception. There is no self-access; staff manually enter a pin code to open the sliding door.

The lounge itself is embodiment of Rex’s brand colours: deep blue armchairs spaced around white-topped coffee tables, a vibrant orange feature wall hiding the kitchenette.

The lounge sports an eclectic mix of seating choices.
The lounge sports an eclectic mix of seating choices.

While there’s quite a lot of empty space, seating is adequate for the number of guests, from comfy leather lounges and armchairs to upright desks with a power board at the centre.

External windows flood the space with natural light.
External windows flood the space with natural light.

Passengers travelling sans laptop, or needing a last-minute print job, will appreciate a small business zone fitted with three PCs and a printer.

A small but functional business zone.
A small but functional business zone.

Real greenery, lamps and the use of warm, yellow timber give the Rex Lounge almost living room-like ambience, with that feel only enhanced by the self-serve nature of dining.

Boil the kettle for a cup of tea, or make use of the automated coffee machine.
Boil the kettle for a cup of tea, or make use of the automated coffee machine.

Given the lounge isn’t as highly-trafficked as Qantas or Virgin Australia’s, catering is more long-life than buffet, but there’s plenty to go around including cup noodles, cheese and crackers, yoghurt and banana bread, plus a snackable mix of single-serve treats.

There's a broad selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
There's a broad selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Drinks range from tea and coffee to juice, soft drinks and, from 3pm, beers and wine.

Flight

Rex Airlines offers a single return flight a day between Sydney and the Gold Coast:

  • ZL540 jetting off from Sydney at 12:30pm AEDT and touching down in Coolangatta at 12:50pm AEST (one hour later outside of daylight savings time).
  • ZL545 taking off at 1:30pm AEST, arriving in Sydney at 4pm.

Business class passengers enjoy 32kg checked luggage across all Biz Saver, Biz and Biz Plus fares, plus one carry-on bag up to 10kgs for Biz Saver, or 15kg on Biz and Biz Plus.

Seat

Having flown an ex SilkAir jet on the way down from the Gold Coast two days prior, I was surprised to find a different and newly-refurbished plane at the departure gate. 

As on Rex’s other Boeing 737s, the latest aircraft features a small business class cabin of eight seats in a roomy 2-2 layout, separated from the economy cabin by a divider.

Legroom in Row 1 is excellent.
Legroom in Row 1 is excellent.

Where it deviates from Rex tradition is the colour palette: a rich chocolate brown leather instead of the standard dark blue or grey, accented by white and silver trims.

Plenty of space to stretch out.
Plenty of space to stretch out.

The seat itself is actually the same as Virgin’s latest – as seen on the Boeing 737 MAX and now rolling out across the rest of the fleet, minus the water bottle nook. You’ll also find it on Fiji Airways’ MAX fleet.

Buttons in the armrest control the angle of your leg rest.
Buttons in the armrest control the angle of your leg rest.

Among the other features are a legrest, deep storage bin alongside your arm (where you’ll also find AC and USB power outlets), plus a surprisingly sturdy pop-up tray table.

Meal

Putting that tray to good use was the F&B offering on my flight, which began with a welcome glass of sparkling water or juice while remaining passengers boarded the plane.

The flip-out tray table has two positions.
The flip-out tray table has two positions.

The cabin manager took orders for the meal service soon after – “cold cuts” or a baked olive polenta with vegetables. Curiously got the better of me, so I opted for the former, which turned out to be a ploughman’s lunch.

A tasty ploughman's lunch with pickled vegetables, cheese and sliced meats.
A tasty ploughman's lunch with pickled vegetables, cheese and sliced meats.

This was served alongside a still-warm wholemeal roll and Danish butter, a slice of lemon syrup cake dolloped with cream cheese icing, and a petite raspberry chocolate.

(For comparison, my flight two days earlier featured a tasty quiche/tart with bacon and roasted tomatoes, a slice of berry cheesecake and a sunset orange chocolate).

All packaging is single use, though made from recycled materials.
All packaging is single use, though made from recycled materials.

Beer, wine (a red, white or sparkling) and the usual soft drinks and juices were offered, all served in plastic cups.

Aside from the recycled cardboard tray and paper plates, which looked quite smart though not overly premium, it was comparable to meals I’ve had recently on Virgin Australia.

It was a very generous portion and could have easily fed two people. Presentation lacked a little finesse, but the flavour was there and it hit the spot.

Entertainment & Service

Rex’s WiFi-enabled Boeing 737 fleet allows you to access a range of streamed movies and TV shows. Sadly this wasn’t accessible on my flight, giving me a good incentive to flick through the TrulyAus inflight magazine.

Ordinarily, Rex’s 737s come with two tiers of inflight Internet:

  • Regular from $6.50 for 30 minutes or $9.99 for the whole flight, which Rex claims is “suitable for simple web browsing, email, instant messaging and social media)
  • High-speed from $9.75 for 30 minutes or $14.99 for the duration, which is better suited to streaming video from the likes of YouTube.

Internet access is free of charge in business class. (It’s expected WiFi will eventually be added as a higher status perk in the airline’s new RexFlyer frequent flyer program).

Verdict

With business class seats matching its nearest competitor and generous F&B included with every premium fare, Rex business class proves a great way to fly. And despite internal differences across the fleet, service still provides a feeling of consistency. 

The writer travelled as a guest of Rex Airlines.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 571

Remembered the lounges at SYD and CBR when I first flew with REx in 2003 or 2004 (I think), other than the computer stations and wifi, not much have changed I guess.

Mind you, the volume of frequent flyer travellers coming via their program once they get it sorted out (3 years and counting) will significantly put their lounges under stress which would be something to watch. Ironically some expected this so would likely not use REx as much so the hordes would not be as much as it could have been if REx promoted (and prepared for) this better 

21 Jul 2020

Total posts 20

A sandwich press! Please tell virgin!

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 571

In some workplace toasters are not allowed due to repeated triggering of fire alarms, an expensive call out costs at $1k per false alarm by the fire department, but it always amused me how many times the hot sandwich press is left unattended with its toasting contents at many QF lounges.

No kowtows to the lounge staff who are often not at the counter, but thanks to users who sees the overtoasted sandwich hogging valuable real estate and offloaded these orphans to the nearest empty plate while they put their own concoctions in the press.

Luckily either the lounge smoke detectors are “fine tuned” to these presses or the high ceilings in more QF lounge meant the smoke is dissipated enough. Might not be so lucky if REx lounges are a bit small and cosy


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