REX: What you will get when flying Business between Sydney and Melbourne from 1 March 2021
REX is planning to break the Qantas Group and Virgin Australia monopoly on the Sydney/Melbourne route, the second busiest air corridor in the world,
REX (Regional Express) best known for its flights connecting over 59 destinations across Australia, but concentrated in the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia is about to start a regular domestic service between Australia’s two largest capital cities, Sydney and Melbourne. That axis is the premier route for Australian business, providing a lucrative income source from airlines’ business class product.
We are about to see a very interesting capacity and pricing war between the three major players: Qantas, Virgin and REX. Jetstar flies the route, but does not offer a specific business cabin, so for premier passengers we are down to 3.
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This is a very cheeky move by REX, although it could end in triumph or tragedy. As of 1 March, the former regional airline will start its attack on domestic capital city routes. First up is SYD-MEL, but then expect them to expand to Brisbane by Easter and Adelaide (if all goes well) over the next 12 months.
REX has 3 x Boeing 737-800’s to start the SYD-MELB route, with another 2 jets arriving by Easter. All three airlines (Qantas, Virgin Australia and REX) fly 737-800’s on this route, and all three have a business class cabin.
Pricing and fare categories – talk about competitive
REX is keenly pricing its Business Class fares on the route with a base price of AU$299, with two further steps at AU$399 and finally fully flexible at AU$598. Compare that to Qantas at a flat AU$715 and Virgin at AU$499 for a Business Saver fare, and AU$599 for a regular Business fare.
With its lowest Business fare at between AU$200 to AU$416 cheaper than its Qantas and Virgin competitors, REX could blast its competitors out of the water, all other things being equal.
But – there is always a but – you will get slugged by a compulsory ‘booking and handling fee of 1.1%. It’s inescapable unless you pay cash over the counter at a REX desk at the airport. Call the ACCC! The other airlines don’t have such a charge. You will also be up for a credit card fee – depending on card/payment type – of between ~0.9% and ~3.6% on the total including GST
Below is REX’s chart on your entitlements for each fare class:
I did a bit of a breakdown of these over in this post.
Planes an business cabin
REX and Virgin Australia both have 8 business seats at the front of their jets over 2 rows. Qantas has 12 over 3 rows. The jets themselves are the same – all Boeing 737-800’s of different ages. In fact REX’s planes are Virgin Australia cast-offs post the sale of the airline to Bain Capital.
Important for business travellers, REX has lounges in both Sydney and Melbourne already, and it is planning on renovating and expanding them. Qantas has 3 lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide (Chairman’s, Business and Club). Virgin currently only has one lounge in Brisbane open, although it is planning to re-open Sydney and Melbourne soon, and Adelaide later as its ‘new concept’ lounge.
So by the time REX gets its SYD-MELB route off the ground in March 2021, all airlines will have at least one lounge available.
Service – onboard
This could well be the decider for some travellers. Qantas definitely tops the service in Business Class at the moment, even in the time of COVID. It has an altered meal service, but from my observations on board, its getting more and more like regular service by the day.
Virgin Australia’s business class catering went down the toilet during the pandemic, but apparently is improving. We don’t yet know where it will land, as Jayne Hrdlicka – the new Virgin CEO has delayed an announcement about the future of business class service until next year (2021).
All we know about REX is that Business Class service will involve ‘complimentary food + all beverages’, or as it describes it elsewhere on its website:
Sit back and relax on Rex! All our fares include (a) complimentary snack, water, and tea and coffee!
Purchase of soft drinks is available on all Rex services. Alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase on Rex services after 11 am (please note: a no-alcohol policy applies on the Gulf/Cape York routes).
Passengers in our business class cabin are served a specially crafted meal box, with an accompanying selection of soft drink, juice, red wine, white wine and beer included.www.rex.com.au
Frequent Flyer scheme
The major oversight for REX is there lack of a sophisticated loyalty program, and I think it is a mistake to not have launched a new scheme prior to their move into capital city domestic flying.
If you are currently Qantas or Virgin loyal, why would you book with REX when you could be adding to your qualifying credits for future loyalty status? Well, I suppose there is price.
REX currently runs a Business Flyer program, that essentially gives you a 10% discount via 2 free flights granted for every 18 flights flown. You can redeem them on any sector of the rex network that has last seat availability. You need to apply, and you don’t get points on the two lowest economy fares: Community and Promo.
If you think REX is going to be an attractive operation for your business, and you travel between Melbourne and Sydney regularly, then I would apply to join the Business Flyer program. If REX know their loyalty stuff, you should get some advantages when they launch their ‘new and improved Business Flyer program’ which is slated for the first quarter of 2021.
This is an exciting move – the introduction of a new player to the domestic route market in Australia. Their fares are very competitive, their lounges are available and well regarded, their planes are the same as everyone else on the MEL-SYD route, their catering should be comparable and you wont have to pay for a basic beverage and snack like on Virgin.
Besides service levels, which I am yet to experience, their only major deficiancy is a contemporary loyalty program, and that is scheduled to be rectified in 2021, soon after they start flying their first domestic route, between capital city pair, Sydney and Melbourne.
I wish them luck, and hope to experience their service as soon as they start flying.