Review: Rex Boeing 737 business class (Gold Coast-Melbourne)

Regional Express takes on Qantas and Virgin Australia for premium travellers: but how does the experience stack up?

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, April 14 2021
Rex Boeing 737 business class (Gold Coast-Melbourne)
Route

Gold Coast to Melbourne

Aircraft Type

Boeing 737-800

Airline

Regional Express

Flight

ZL669

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

1D

Notes
The Good
  • A familiar yet different experience
  • Sharp fare pricing, recently as low as $199 one-way
The Bad
  • No inflight power, entertainment, points, or lounge at the Gold Coast
  • All food and beverage served via single-use products
X-Factor
  • Well-trained cabin crew balance personalisation with professionalism
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Bringing some much-welcome business class competition to Australia’s previous domestic duopoly, Regional Express (Rex) pairs sharp fare prices with an all-inclusive experience to rival what travellers would expect aboard Qantas or Virgin Australia.

With jet services now spanning beyond the Sydney-Melbourne corridor to destinations such as the Gold Coast and Adelaide – plus Canberra, once demand builds up – Executive Traveller took to the skies from Queensland’s Gold Coast to Melbourne to bring you this review.

Check-in

  • Checked baggage allowance: 32kg
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 10kg on Biz Saver fares, or 15kg on Biz and Biz Plus tickets (max. 10kg per item).
  • Online check-in: Available between 48 hours and 60 minutes prior to scheduled departure.
  • Airport fast-track: Rex business class passengers can utilise priority check-in at Gold Coast Airport, along with priority security screening (follow the signs for “premium passengers”, towards the right). At the gate, business class travellers are called for boarding first, with checked bags also priority tagged.
  • Boarding passes: Can be printed after online check-in, saved to Apple Wallet on iPhone, or obtained at a kiosk or check-in desk at the airport. Mobile boarding passes for Android phones aren't supported by default, but can be saved and used after installing the WalletPasses app via Google Play.

Lounge

Although rivals Qantas and Virgin Australia operate lounge facilities at Gold Coast Airport, Rex doesn't have a lounge here.

Some travellers may have an alternative via Priority Pass, with airport retailer Coffee & Co providing $36 of food and beverage credit per 'lounge entry' processed to the traveller's account.

(Priority Pass cardholders with a membership issued via American Express won't have this option though, as AMEX blocks airport dining benefits under these accounts.)

Down in Melbourne, Rex does operate its own lounge, and a business class ticket grants complimentary entry before departure, including when bound for the Gold Coast.

Flight

Rex offers two return flights a day between the Gold Coast and Melbourne, departing Coolangatta at 11:15am (ZL669) and 5pm (ZL689), to reach Melbourne after two hours and 15 minutes.

Northbound, flights push back at 8:30am (ZL658) and 2:15pm (ZL680), running at two hours and five minutes.

The airline also links Sydney and the Gold Coast, again with two daily return flights in each direction.

Check-in closes 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure, with boarding also announced at that time. Passengers must arrive at the boarding gate earlier than 20 minutes prior to departure, to avoid missing their flight.

Seat

While Rex will be a new airline for many, its business class seats offer a level of familiarity for frequent domestic travellers, being the same as those found aboard Virgin Australia’s own Boeing 737s.

That’s because Rex’s jet fleet comes straight from Virgin Australia’s stable of excess jets, with Rex simply removing the ‘Virgin’ logo here, and embossing its own brand instead.

Business class provides eight seats in a familiar 2-2 layout, spanning two rows.

There’s 38 inches of pitch, with each passenger having an adjustable headrest and the ability to recline – although unlike Qantas business class, you won’t find a swing-up leg rest here.

As well, there’s no inflight power, so make sure your devices are fully charged before heading to the airport, remembering that there’s no lounge at the Gold Coast for a quick top-up before departure.

In row 1, sizeable storage pouches prove large enough for tablets, laptops, headphones, chargers and other bits and pieces, while in row 2, a seatback pocket pairs with under-seat storage space.

Both rows offer a central cocktail table between passengers, which can be extended to provide additional space.

There’s also a fold-open tray table. Opening it half way gives adequate space for a tablet:

Flipping it across and pulling it towards your cocktail table gives a nice stable surface for any laptop work, as well as for inflight dining.

Meal

Service begins with a choice between orange juice and water before departure, served in a plastic cup:

After take-off, bar service becomes available, with the 2020 Wildflower Sauvignon Blanc from Western Australia being a nice and crisp drop:

Being a lunchtime flight, that’s followed by a meal served on a single large tray.

With orders taken from the back of the cabin first, that left a single option: a potato and sage frittata with bacon and tomato ragu.

The frittata came heated perfectly with the tomato ragu being a nice complement. On the side, a warmed and sweet berry muffin, and a tasty lemon citrus bite.

Beverages were kept topped up during the flight, with tea, coffee, water, beer and soft drink also available.

In Rex business class, all food and beverage is included with your ticket, so you can safely ignore the announcement about beverage pricing, which applies in economy only.

As there's no option to pre-order special or dietary meals, however, passengers who'd normally require these may wish to speak to the crew before take-off, to see if anything suitable is available and to keep it in reserve.

Entertainment & Service

Regional Express had originally planned to offer both inflight entertainment and inflight Internet on its Boeing 737 flights, but neither were active as at April 2021.

Instead, an inflight magazine can be found in the seat pocket – and anything else is what you bring with you.

As you’d expect on rivals Qantas and Virgin Australia, passengers can use small electronic devices throughout the flight, as well as Bluetooth gadgets like headphones and wireless mice.

Service was excellent for the length of journey, with passengers greeted by name upon boarding and when taking meal orders.

Cabin crew also got the balance right between friendliness and professionalism, being happy to chat when initiated by the passenger, but not intrusive at other times or when working on a laptop.

That’s likely a combination of Rex’s business class training and the crew’s flying history, with the staff member serving business class on this flight having previously flown for Air New Zealand on long-haul routes: and that experience shows.

The verdict

With business class seats matching its nearest competitor, cabin service on-par with other leading airlines and all-inclusive food and beverage included with every premium fare, Rex business class proves a great – and very familiar-feeling – way to fly.

Although the airline lacks lounge facilities at Gold Coast Airport (while offering them in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide), its sharp business class fares reflect this.

On flights in late April 2021, Rex business class fares from the Gold Coast to Melbourne start at $349 one-way, versus $804 on Qantas: meaning you can fly round-trip on Rex for less than a one-way ticket on Qantas.

However, Virgin Australia has been aggressively price matching Rex, with its business class fares also selling at $349 on the same dates.

While Rex is yet to launch its frequent flyer program for personal travellers – building on the airline’s existing RexFlyer scheme for businesses – the experience as stands is today is otherwise highly competitive, and brings welcome choice to the domestic skies. 

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.

21 Apr 2019

Total posts 10

And unlike Virgin you get desert actually two!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 63

Well done Rex keep it up! More competition in the air better for all of us!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 150

Desert even at breakfast seems overkill but certainly welcome!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 438

The flight was departing at 11.15am, so "brunch" more than breakfast!

Looks better than the meal I had on VA last night, hopefully they have bottled water on Rex. Monday I’ll compare the food service to a QF A330 in a cribb seat.

They do indeed have bottled water (you can spot one in the photo of the meal tray). 

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 52

To me the frittata dish overall doesnt looking appealing at all.  The frittata does but the rest looks like "old style" airline food.

QFP

22 Jan 2013

Total posts 80

Good report David. Very similar to my experience, only with lounge out of Sydney. The crew where amazing and didn’t hide in the gallery, but out and about keeping glasses full and seeing if you need anything. 

Hi Flyman, my name's Chris. ;)

QFP

22 Jan 2013

Total posts 80

Sorry Chris.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 238

I hope Rex sticks around as we are already seeing the positive impact they are having on the market, with cheaper prices and better service.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 361

the frittata is tasty.I had something like that at work with steamed veggies and salad.but the airline offering us as a lunch meal is new.

think Rex needs more frequency SYD/MEL/SYD in peak hour Mon-Fri & routes to Gold Coast can be operated say between 10am & 3pm Mon-Fri, Sat & Sun am.


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