Australian airline Rex plans aggressive expansion during COVID-19 travel downturn

Aircraft  Boeing 737-800 grounded by the pandemic virus covid-19
Photo credit: Getty

It's an airline most Kiwis won't have heard of, but it's making a lot of noise in Australia - Australia's Regional Express, or Rex as its branded, is planning to expand its operations from the 57 turboprop aircraft it currently operates to include as many as 40 narrowbody jets by the end of 2022.

Known for its reliable services to comparatively smaller towns and cities than its larger rivals, the company appears to be making an aggressive move for more market share and is using the COVID-19 slump to its advantage.

The regional carrier has plans to lease an initial six Boeing 737s as it looks to engage in a three-way-battle with Qantas and Virgin Australia on key routes like Sydney-Melbourne from March.

"As a well-established carrier with an impeccable track record, I am confident that Rex will deliver to Australians an alternative major city domestic service that is safe, reliable and affordable. Rex's affordable fares will support Australia's economic rebuild and recovery efforts," the airline said in a statement in September.

Rex is Australia's largest independent regional airline. Pre-COVID-19 it was operating a fleet of 60 Saab 340 Aircraft on 1500 weekly flights to 59 destinations throughout all states in Australia. 

"Rex's ambition is to be a sizeable domestic airline operator with a fleet of 30 or maybe 40, maybe even more narrow bodied single-aisle aircraft operating on the domestic network around Australia by the end of 2022," Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said during an aviation conference in Australia.

The airline already has one Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft in its fleet and with the downturn in the aviation industry continuing, it's unlikely to have to pay too much for a handful more.

The remaining five 737-800 aircraft will arrive over the next few months.