• Tom Jordan

Australia's Rex plans expansion into jet aircraft

A Rex Saab 340B lands at Melbourne-Tullamarine Airport. Photo by Duy Khang Tran | AeroNewsX

Australia’s Regional Express Airlines, usually referred to as Rex, this morning caught observers by surprise as it announced its intention to begin operating flights between Australia’s major cities with jet aircraft by the beginning of 2021.

Regional Express Airlines began operation in 2002 using the assets of defunct Ansett Australia subsidiaries Kendall Airlines and Hazelton Airlines. In 2005, the airline started being publicly traded on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and made its first major airline acquisition, Dubbo-based Air Link Air Services. Since 2005, using a simplified fleet consisting of the Fairchild Metro 23 and Saab 340, Rex has rapidly expanded and as of May 2020, Rex now flies to all Australian states and is now the largest operator of the Saab 340 turboprop in the world with 57 in its fleet. The Fairchild Metro 23 has since been removed from the fleet to allow the carrier to operate one-aircraft type on all of its services across Australia.

In recent years, Rex has also acquired the Australian Airline Pilot Academy in New South Wales, as well as established a specialist air service subsidiary Pel-Air which flies anything from scheduled night-time cargo to emergency medevac flights with a range of aircraft types.

Today, Rex, now the largest regional airline in Australia, operating 1500 weekly flights prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, made the next big announcement regarding its future; the intention to acquire up to 10 Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 aircraft and begin operating between major city pairs in Australia (such as Sydney to Melbourne) in order to compete with Qantas and Virgin Australia. In order to make the new services a reality, Rex stated they would need $200 million and several investment partners had been contacted about providing the equity.

When making the announcement, the Regional Express Airlines Board stated, “At this time, the Rex board believes there is sufficient capital injection, there is a confluence of circumstances which render the start of domestic operations by Rex to be a particularly compelling proposition.” Rex also announced that it would make a final decision whether to proceed or not with the project over the next eight weeks, and if it did the new jet operation would be scheduled to begin on March 1st, 2021.

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