Airline review: Regional Express (Rex) Boeing 737-800, Melbourne to Sydney economy class

THE ROUTE

Melbourne to Sydney

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 737-800

LOYALTY SCHEME

The airline doesn't have a loyalty program but plans to introduce one. A section called "Rex Flyer" is on the airline's website but isn't currently accessible.

CLASS

Economy, window seat 7F

DURATION

We depart 30 minutes' late but favourable winds see the flight take just one hour, one minute.

FREQUENCY

This week there are just three return services per day, but this will increase over the next couple of weeks as more aircraft are brought on to the route, with the airline planning nine services a day by the end of the month.

THE SEAT

Rex has taken on some former Virgin Australia planes since the latter airline's financial collapse in 2020 and, while there's new livery on the exterior, the interior cabins remain identical for the moment, including Virgin's colour scheme. There are eight business class seats, 30 "Rextra" legroom seats (still labelled "Economy X" from Virgin) and 138 economy seats. My economy seat offers 30 inches (76.2 centimetres) of pitch and is 17 inches wide (43 centimetres).

ENTERTAINMENT

Download some TV or movies from your favourite streaming service to your device before you fly because the only entertainment you'll find on board is the airline's magazine, TrueBlue, or the view out of the window.

CHECKING IN

There's a small set of check-in desks at one end of Melbourne's Terminal 4. It's the same facility that has been previously used to check-in passengers for the airline's much smaller regional flights. To cope with up to 162 passengers per flight on the Melbourne-Sydney route, the airline has added several self-serve kiosks. On the day of my flight, there are no queues at either, despite a fairly full cabin.

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BAGGAGE

Depending on the type of fare, Rex allows either 7 or 10 kilograms of carry-on luggage and 15 or 23 kilograms of checked luggage for economy class.

COMFORT

Legroom is decent, even when the passenger in front of me commits the extreme breach of etiquette by reclining on such a short flight. I'm able to stretch my long legs straight under the seat in front and my knees don't hit the back of it, which is always the best one can hope for in economy. The leather upholstery from Virgin remains in place. I'd quite happily do a longer haul on board this aircraft.

SERVICE

The cabin crew, many of whom have been employed after being made redundant from other airlines due to the COVID-19 related downturn, are friendly and professional. Due to COVID-19 safety requirements, changing seats is a more complicated affair as they require a record of where passengers sat. Despite this extra work, the flight attendants accommodate several passengers near me who want to swap to other rows or switch to window seats. The captain, meanwhile, speaks with the enthusiasm and dulcet tones of a commercial radio presenter, keeping us updated throughout the flight.

FOOD

A snack and drink is served in economy. Today it's a small bag of smoked corn, soya crisps and cashews. It's not a meal, but on such a short flight, it's the best you can expect.

ONE MORE THING

Rex, historically a regional-only airline, has made news with its first foray into the busy Sydney-Melbourne route, in direct competition with Qantas and Virgin Australia. The route has previously been ranked the world's second-busiest, though the number of flights has fallen due to COVID-19. The airline plans to start flights from Melbourne and Sydney to the Gold Coast, and from Melbourne to Adelaide, from the end of March.

THE VERDICT

The Melbourne-Sydney flight is a short one, so differences between three full-service airlines on the route are subtle, with entertainment the one area that Rex currently falls short of the other carriers. Since these are former Virgin planes, the comfort level is identical to what you'll find on that airline. The helpful crew are a strong selling point, but the biggest factor Rex has going for it right now is the price (as low as $48 one way). The airline has come out of the blocks with a fully-formed product offering that can compete with the bigger players.

Our rating out of five

★★★★

Craig Platt flew as a guest of Rex.

See also: Bargain fares on holiday routes as airlines ramp up flights

See also: The unusual air route that is now the world's busiest

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