It’s been a weird year in the aviation industry and things just got weirder. Virgin Australia, the former competitor to Qantas has just sold 6 planes to a new mid-market competitor for some weird reason that I have been struggling to figure out. But before I get into the juicy details I think some background wouldn’t do any harm.
Regional Express, also known as Rex is Australia’s second-largest regional carrier. The airline serves all Australian states with its fleet of 44 Saab 340s, the airline serves some of the most remote locations within our sunburnt land including some with as little as 122 permanent residents . Its slogan “Our Heart is in the Country” truly reflects the values of where the airline flies, however, the New South Wales-based airline has been doing some expanding into unfamiliar territory, the golden triangle.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the “Golden Triangle” refers to flights between Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. These flights account for about 40% of Australian domestic traffic and have been the main focus for domestic carriers since the cities developed and air travel became mainstream. Rex, despite its heavy interest in regional flying, wants to get in on the action. From March 1 Rex will operate 9 return services between Sydney and Melbourne using 3 ex Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800’s (I’ll get back to that in a sec). The airline plans to eventually fly to Brisbane and other capitals cities which could include Perth, Darwin, Canberra, Hobart and Adelaide with up to 10 737-800’s, flights are cheap, they start at $AUD79 and seem to offer bang for your buck with pre-assigned seating, food and 20kg of luggage, cheaper than Virgin.
However, the most interesting part of all this is how they are acquiring these jets. They will buy all of them off their main competitor Virgin Australia, in fact, they have already confirmed that their first 737 will be VH-VUF, a 15-year-old ex Pacific Blue/Virgin Blue/Virgin Australia jet that is one of its former airlines oldest. Rex will even keep the old Virgin seats (with Rex branding applied) and offer a business class with wifi and lounge access. It’s a strange move but it’s going to be interesting how Rex goes with it’s 737’s. It’s a hard market to tame (Virgin almost collapsed this year) but it will be one to watch, maybe these country boys could teach Virgin a lesson…image credit