REX’s first 737 touched down in Sydney on Thursday afternoon. It is the first of six ex Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800s REX is due to receive as it prepares to launch jet services on Australia’s busiest inter-capital routes.
First REX jet touches down in Sydney on Thursday
Adam Thorn reported in Australian Aviation yesterday about the aircraft’s arrival in Sydney. The Boeing had been stored at Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport, just west of Brisbane, after been withdrawn from service in March.
The plane, registered as VH-VUH, was with Virgin Australia since April 2005 and is better known to regular VA travelers as Hobart Honey. The aircraft is leased, as was a good portion of Virgin Australia’s former fleet. According to Planespotters.net, the lease is handled by San Francisco’s Banc of America Leasing.
REX’s takeup of former Virgin Australia jets was one of the worst kept secrets in the local aviation industry. Before it was confirmed, the airline was unimpressed local media were suggesting they would be taking ex Virgin Australia planes. At one stage, REX told Simple Flying they planned to sue a prominent national newspaper for reporting the speculation. As far as we know, they haven’t done so.
A REX spokesperson told Simple Flying the aircraft’s arrival into Sydney was a surprise.
“We didn’t even know this one was coming yesterday until yesterday morning”
REX plans to start flying the jets in March. REX expects another five Boeings, but the spokesperson told Simple Flying they didn’t know yet when they would arrive.
The regional airline makes a leap into the big time
The commuter airline is making the leap from flying Saab 340s on regional routes to the big time, planning to operate on some of the richest (and fiercely protected) domestic trunk routes in the world.
REX plans to start flying the route between Sydney and Melbourne in March. This time last year, it was the third busiest airline route in the world. In Executive Traveller, David Flynn today confirms that the upstart airline plans to start flying between Sydney and Brisbane in April. Last year, that route was the 18th busiest in the world.
Things are a bit slower this year, but there’s clearly some opportunities there, and a lot of Aussies are keeping a keen eye on what REX does next.
REX told Simple Flying they need to make a few changes to the VH-VUH before it begins flying passengers again.
“Obviously, the livery is needed, and minor cosmetic adjustments to the interior.”
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
No decision yet on business class at REX
There’s been a lot of speculation about whether REX will operate a business class cabin. Virgin Australia did, and the 737s are going to REX with the Virgin Australia cabins intact
“We’re still deciding what to do with the eight business class seats,” REX’s spokesperson told us today.
REX’s heavy maintenance usually gets done at their Wagga Wagga heavy maintenance base, about 450 kilometers southwest of Sydney. However, the airline does have some maintenance facilities at Sydney Airport.
It’s likely the 737s will head down to Wagga for their nip and tuck treatment. Included is a fresh registration. That first Boeing is rumored to be getting re-registered at VH-REX. Alas, what won’t be happening is renaming REX’s inter-capital operations to CEX, short for City Express. Can you imagine the joy everyone would have with that? It was on the cards. However, REX’s John Sharp told Executive Traveler CEX was now off the table. Shame.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for REX. Australia’s internal borders are gradually re-opening, and local travelers will start taking to the skies again in significant numbers. With a relaunched Virgin Australia significantly weakened and Qantas reasserting its dominance in Australia’s domestic skies, there are some big opportunities for REX. Watching what they do and how they handle things is going to be interesting.