The closure of the Victorian state border to Sydney residents is throwing the start date of Rex’s Boeing 737 flights between Sydney and Melbourne into doubt. The flights are scheduled to start on March 1, and Rex is busy selling tickets. But continued border uncertainty is raising doubts over that timeline.
Victorian border closure shuts down air traffic between Sydney and Melbourne
Victoria closed its border to Sydney and the rest of New South Wales at Christmas. That followed a very small outbreak of COVID-19 around Sydney. On Monday, just five new locally acquired cases were recorded in Sydney.
After a disastrous hotel quarantine blunder by the Victorian State Government in mid-2020, Melbourne hosted Australia’s worst outbreak of COVID-19. Melbourne was effectively shut down for three-plus months. Fresh off that fiasco, the Victorian Government is now over-compensating in the other direction, closing borders at the smallest threat.
That’s causing chaos at Australia’s airlines, not least at Rex. The airline isn’t calling it yet, but they told Simple Flying today.
“Rex is closely monitoring the situation, and if the borders are highly likely to remain shut, then Rex may make a decision to postpone the launch.”
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Rex promises refunds to any impacted passengers
Rex has also moved to reassure passengers holding tickets on both their Boeing 737 and their regional flights there will be no problems with refunds. On Tuesday, the airline doubled down on its commitment to refund all tickets for flights affected by COVID-19.
“Rex remains committed to a full refund of all tickets affected by any flight cancellation or rescheduling, without exception,” said Rex’s Warrick Lodge.
“Last year, when millions of passengers had their travel plans severely disrupted, Rex
proactively refunded tens of thousands of valid tickets (booked directly with Rex) even without a refund request.
“The Rex COVID refund policy goes far beyond the guarantees provided under Australian
That stance puts it at odds with competitors like Qantas and Virgin Australia. Rex says its refund policy has been criticized by other airlines. Extracting refunds out of Qantas and Virgin Australia is usually a time consuming and laborious process. But neither airline is stepping outside the industry norm when it comes to delays in issuing refunds.
Border closure busts hopes of a busy summer of flying
While Rex’s start date is under threat, the Victorian border closure has busted Qantas’ and Virgin Australia’s hopes of ramping up capacity over the normally busy Australian summer period. Qantas had planned to operate at 80% of domestic pre-COVID levels this quarter.
Before Christmas, just as most of Australia’s internal borders were finally opening up, Virgin Australia reported considerable demand across its domestic network. Both airlines recalled stood down employees, dusted off planes, scheduled flights, and crossed their fingers for a bumper summer of flying.
It also looked like Rex had timed the start date of their Boeing 737 flights to perfection. But with multiple states (Victoria, Western Australia, and Queensland) now playing fast and loose again with border closures, the short term future doesn’t look quite so rosy for Australia’s airlines.
Delaying the start dates of the Boeing 737 flights would be a blow for Rex. Now possessing several jets, they have lease costs, maintenance costs, and crew costs to pay. That’s even before they start flying. Rex, Qantas, and Virgin Australia aren’t the best of friends, but they’ll all be singing the same tune when it comes to sorting out the border issues and getting their planes into the air.
What do you think? What’s the likelihood of Rex operating its first Boeing 737 flights on its scheduled March 1 start date? Post a comment and let us know.