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Rex Sparks Sydney-Melbourne Fare War With Qantas And Virgin

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Tom Goward | 11/02/2021

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The developing tit-for-tat war between Qantas, Virgin Australia and newcomer Regional Express is heating up ahead of Rex’s plans to operate flights between Sydney and Melbourne on March 1st.

The regional carrier announced yesterday they would offer one-way fares on flights between Sydney and Melbourne for $199 in business and $49 in economy. Virgin Australia was quick to retaliate to Rex’s 5am media release, matching the crazy fares within hours. The price drop followed previous announcements from Qantas and Virgin to sell one-way economy seats on the route for $109 and $78 respectively.

Rex plans to add Brisbane flights to the mix later in the year, completing the highly contested ‘golden triangle’ between the NSW, Victoria and Queensland capitals, with flights to Adelaide and Canberra also rumoured.

The new player

Last year, Rex confirmed plans to launch flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from March 2021. The operation is set to rival Qantas and Virgin Australia, operating an initial fleet of five to ten B737 aircraft. Rex said that their new capital city flights would be priced at “affordable levels” and include baggage allowance, meals and pre-assigned seating.

Rex opened up ticket sales between Sydney and Melbourne in December 2020 with already-compelling fares of $79 for economy and $299 for business.

Qantas, Virgin, Rex or Jetstar?

At the time of writing, the best prices for a one-way flight in March were as follows:

  • Qantas: $109
  • Virgin: $49
  • Rex: $49
  • Jetstar: $39

Excluding Jetstar, each airline includes carry-on and checked baggage in the ticket price. Across the board, you won’t find too much difference. Below is a comparison of our four airlines.

 Carry-on (Y)Checked (Y)Carry-on (J)Checked (J)
Qantas2x 10kg (14kg total)23kg2x 10kg (14kg total)23kg
Virgin7kg23kg2x 7kg2x 32kg
Rex7kg23kg10kg32kg
Jetstar7kg$NANA

One main area of difference for our four airlines is the food and beverage service. In economy, Qantas set to introduce hot meals in March, Virgin is preparing to move to a buy-onboard menu and Rex says they will offer a snack plus basic drinks.

 EconomyBusiness
QantasHot meal + standard & alcoholMeal + standard & alcohol
VirginSnack + water, tea/coffeeMeal box + standard & alcohol
RexSnack + water, tea/coffeeMeal + standard & alcohol
Jetstar$NA

What about the points?

Something worth considering is frequent flyer points as Rex does not currently offer a frequent flyer program.

 Points (Y)Status Credits (Y)Points (J)Status Credits (J)
Qantas80010140040
Virgin245*7995*50
Rex0000
Jetstar$$NANA

*Velocity Points earned will differ depending on the cost of your flight. You will earn 5 Velocity Points per $1 spent on Domestic flights.

Earn double Velocity Points

Virgin Australia is currently offering double Velocity Points (that’s 10 Points per $1 spent) on eligible Virgin Australia domestic flights. You must activate the offer and book a flight by 17 February 2021, for travel until 5 January 2022.

Under the current promotion, you could earn 490 Velocity Points and 7 status credits in economy, or 1990 Velocity Points and 50 status credits in business on a flight between Melbourne and Sydney.

Summing up: my take

Competition in the Australian airline market is great news for travellers. Qantas is relatively safe with a strong customer base, large fleet and wide lounge network. We can expect a close race between Rex and Virgin Australia, especially considering Rex’s new fleet is essentially Virgin aircraft with Rex branding.

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Tom Goward

Tom is a Hobart-based writer with a passion for aviation and travel.

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