The first Boeing 737-800 sporting Rex Airlines livery landed in Sydney on Christmas Eve. After a flight from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Wednesday, December 23, VH-RQC overnighted in Brisbane before flying down to Sydney on Thursday morning. Rex’s Deputy Chairman, John Sharp, called it a historic moment.
The second of six Boeing 737-800s has landed at Rex
This is the second of six Boeing 737-800s Rex is taking over the next few months. All are former Virgin Australia aircraft coming from a couple of lessors. Rex has reportedly snagged some bargains, paying around US$45,500 per plane per month for the first twelve months.
The first 737-800, VH-VUH arrived at Rex minus some (but not all) of its distinctive Virgin Australia livery in November. That aircraft loitered around Sydney Airport’s Terminal 2 for a couple of weeks before heading down to the paint shop in Wagga Wagga.
“Our second 737 is currently being painted by Douglas Aerospace at one of the country’s finest
aircraft paint facilities in Wagga Wagga,” said Mr Sharp in a press release last week.
Rex had released renderings of their jet’s new look, but Christmas Eve morning was the first time it had been seen at Sydney Airport. Rex posted images of their new plane on Twitter.
After a stopover in Brisbane, VH-RQC landed yesterday in Sydney in full Rex livery. This aircraft is the first of six leased aircraft in readiness for the inaugural services from Melbourne to Sydney commencing on 1 March 2021 with Brisbane added to the network after Easter. pic.twitter.com/dEkm0oqMwA
— Rex Airlines (@RexAirlines) December 25, 2020
Rex aims to commence flights on the normally busy Sydney – Melbourne route on March 1. Tickets are on sale via the airline’s website. Flights on the Sydney – Brisbane sector will begin just after Easter.
Many people are cheering Rex’s 737 ambitions. Not least because it stands to shake up the Australian airline industry and spark downward pressure on airfares. However, it is a brave airline that takes on Qantas and Virgin Australia’s likes on their best routes. The stakes get even higher, considering the difficult flying environment within Australia right now.
Normally, Sydney is Australia’s busiest airport. Rex’s heart may be in the country, but the base of its operations is firmly in Sydney. It’s a natural enough spot for Rex to springboard their new services out of.
A tough time to start a new airline
However, running inter capital airline services in Australia is a fraught business these days. Even the smallest COVID outbreaks are seeing Australian states and territories closing their borders. It’s causing havoc for airlines like Qantas (who have the financial muscle to withstand a fair degree of punishment), but it could be extremely detrimental for smaller airlines like Rex.
At present, residents of or visitors to the greater Sydney area cannot travel to Melbourne or Brisbane. There were just six new COVID cases reported in Sydney yesterday. No-one really imagines COVID is going anywhere between now and March 1.
That puts Rex in a tricky position regarding their new jet services. While the current border restrictions will probably be lifted by then, there is absolutely no guarantee (and every likelihood) a fresh new set of border restrictions are just around the corner.
It’s a tough environment to launch a new airline. Another competitor on these busy inter capital routes would be a big win for travelers. But it’s a hard environment to succeed in, even in normal circumstances. Right now, it is a big gamble.
What do you think? How will Rex handle the threat of COVID and the havoc it might cause their new jet services? Post a comment and let us know.