By Michael Mangano
Regional Express Expanding Operations
Australian regional airline Regional Express (Rex) is set to continue its domestic expansion, adding new routes formerly operated by Virgin Australia, entering new Air Ambulance contracts, and even contributing 1 million Australian dollars to areas affected by the recent floods in both Queensland and New South Wales – this in addition to its acquirement of a second aviation academy in 2019.
The regional airline, which grew to prominence after the collapse of Ansett Australia in 2002, has slowly been growing in significance and operations, taking over several major inter-state routes in 2020 after Virgin Australia was unable to sustain its operations in the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. This expansion saw Rex increase the size and scope of its fleet, adding six Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft to its existing array of turboprop aircraft with the goal of further fleet expansion.
In early 2020, Rex obtained six Boeing 737-800NG aircraft as it commenced major inter-city domestic route operations, having recently expanded to include all major eastern Australian cities. This so-called ‘Golden Triangle’, which connects the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, are considered Australia’s busiest routes. Together with flight routes including Canberra and the Gold Coast, Rex has expanded its network to 62 routes around Australia.
Rex continues to reinforce its expanded operations, flying three daily flights between Sydney and Brisbane during the five-day working week and doubling this on weekends. It’s a positive outcome despite resistance from Australian flagship airline Qantas, which is accused of engaging in anti-competitive behavior against Rex. These actions from Qantas have been viewed as typical by Rex, having commenced legal remedies for Qantas’ behavior in 2021. Qantas was found guilty in 2007, 2008 and 2011 of price-fixing in the US, Australia and New Zealand respectively.
Rex, under its subsidiary company Pel-Air’s subcontractor Total Aerospace Solutions, commenced its New South Wales air ambulance operations earlier this year on January 1, having received five new aeromedical Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft between December 2020 and June 2021. In future-proofing the contract, two Pilatus PC-24 will enter service in 2023, replacing two of the five King Air 350s.
The 10-year contract has been complemented by Ambulance Victoria’s 12-year aeromedical contract, set to begin in 2024, worth a total of 300 million Australian dollars, requiring another four King Air 350s to be delivered later this year.
The aircraft will be used for patient transport as well as complex life-support operations across a vast range of areas in both states, each being described as a “hospital in the sky” by the NSW State Government.
The Rex Disaster Relief Fund will be providing up to AU$1 million to areas affected by the recent catastrophic floods. The months of February and March brought massive flooding to the eastern coast of Australia, resulting in enormous damage to many homes and at one point shutting access to Sydney’s CBD.
Rex says it is staying true to its tagline ‘Our Heart is in the Country,’ offering applications for free passenger and freight transport for those affected by the major flooding, particularly for towns it has long service. The support comes on the back of the deadly 2019-2020 bushfires and floods that followed.