Up, up and away – there’s a new contender in town serving Australia’s busiest route.

From today, Rex airlines has started flying between Sydney and Melbourne in an attempt to shake up the playing field by competing with Virgin and Qantas on metropolitan routes.

Rex, who typically service regional ports such as Orange, Dubbo and Longreach, is the first independent airline to fly between the two cities for nearly 15 years.

The airline made waves last month when, ahead of Valentine’s Day, they slashed fares from $79 to $49 between Sydney and Melbourne.

Virgin hit right back at the time, matching the $49 fares and vowing to find “new ways to push the envelope”. And not to be outdone, Jetstar dropped its Sydney-Melbourne fares to $39 for flights during March, before announcing even cheaper sale deals from $29.

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In response to the uptake of the Sydney to Melbourne route, Rex announced several new destinations from other capital cities, unveiling flights from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and even to Adelaide with prices starting at $69.

“South Australia and Queensland have always benefited from Rex’s regional services which are renowned for reliability and great country hospitality, at affordable fares,” Rex’s deputy chairman, the Hon John Sharp said in a statement.

“I am pleased to announced these two states will, for the first time be able to enjoy the same benefits for their domestic services.”

The airline said that while they had previously planned to launch a Sydney to Brisbane route, the airline executives made the decision to pivot to a more leisure-orientated destination (like the Gold Coast and Adelaide) in time for the Easter long weekend in early April. The fares go on sale from today.

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Prior to the pandemic, Qantas’ Sydney-Melbourne route was the second-biggest revenue generator for any airline globally. So it’s no surprise the regional airline wants in on the action given domestic border controls are beginning to ease between both cities.

On Friday, a spokesperson for Rex said they didn’t expect the route to be profitable in the financial year ending June 30, however appeared a little more optimistic for the following year.

The regional airline currently operates 1500 flights a week between 59 destinations.

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