It is a question burning on every frequent flyer’s lips. What is that question you ask? When it comes to Rex Airlines, I’m sure you’ll agree that there are, in fact, many burning questions. Has the airline launched its frequent flyer program? When will Rex lounges get upgraded? Is there a Rex app coming? When will Rex start flying to Perth? And of course, many, many more.

I sit down with John Sharp AO, Deputy Chairman of Rex Airlines in an exclusive interview with Point Hacks to get answers to these questions and a hint of Rex’s flight path in 2024 and beyond.

If you’ve been pondering the above questions for a while, or I have just piqued your interest, make sure to read on. And the full interview can be viewed on our Point Hacks YouTube channel. And if you like what you see on that channel, please make sure to subscribe.

Rex Flyer has launched

Rex Flyer finally landed in October 2023 after a gruelling 18-month wait from when it was first announced. But you know the saying, Good things come to those who wait. So, we have waited, and it is now here. So is it any good?

I naturally open the interview with a series of questions revolving around the Rex Flyer program. Rex Flyer is currently a basic frequent flyer program, in the mould of the early days of airline programs from the early nineties. Earn points when flying with Rex, redeem points to fly on Rex. And some status levels and corresponding benefits to reward those loyal to the airline.

Beyond a basic frequent flyer proposition

Will the program expand its offering in 2024 to include additional earn and burn opportunities? Sharp explains:

So we’re hoping to add to our offering, not just our regional and domestic network, but also our partners in international operations so that the Rex point will ultimately one day get you a seat on an international airline flight.

Rex Delta Planes
Rex has already inked an interline agreement with its first international airline partner, which is the first step to a more comprehensive partnership.

But Sharp quickly sets expectations on when these initiatives will go live while also hinting that these additional opportunities will not just be for ‘altitude-based’ rewards.

But we’re going to do it in stages where we’re one of those companies that likes to walk before we run and and our launch of the frequent flyer program offers what would be described as a basic frequent flier program. You can’t come and buy a fridge with our frequent flier points at this stage, but maybe one day you will. 

The inclusion of non-airline partners is a step up from Rex’s previous iteration of Rex Flyer, which was canned in 2010. That version was a simple ‘coffee-card’ style program, where you could earn and redeem points for Rex flights.

Status levels with associated benefits also form part of the new program. This aligns with the Rex proposition of being a full-service airline, allowing for increased benefits for the most loyal members.

Well, we’re a full service airline. We offer… free luggage, check in with free carry on. You get a snack, drinks on the flight, all part of the ticket price. We have lounges in nearly all of the capital cities (but) have one in Brisbane. We’re about to build one there. We’re building new lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

And so we have a lounge offering and now we also have a frequent flyer program 

Rex Lounge Sydney
Sydney’s Rex Lounge is often a quiet place to work or unwind.

But offering a full-service airline and loyalty program does not mean Rex Flyer has to be a complicated program.

It’s a very simple, uncomplicated program. It’s very easy to use. I mean, some of the frequent flyer programs are quite complicated to start with, and it takes a fair bit of getting used to them to get them to work to your advantage. But the great thing about the Rex frequent flyer program is accessing the flights.

Why is Rex Flyer great with regard to accessing flights? Sharp is alluding to the ‘Last Minute Flight Rewards’ feature of the program that makes available any unsold seats based on class and type of fare.

For small businesses wondering what the status of the current Rex Business Flyer program is, Sharp makes the following comments:

Ultimately, it’ll be folded into the program, but Rex Business Flyer has been a real stable mate of the program over the many, many years where people who are frequent users join it.

And any chance we can see a Star Alliance or SkyTeam logo painted on any Rex aircraft? Perhaps. But you’ll need to watch the video for a more comprehensive answer.

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Rex Airlines will continue to soar in 2024

The takeout message from Sharp is that growth is coming to Rex Airlines in 2024 and beyond. But it is a staged growth. After learning to ‘walk’ in the domestic jet market, 2024 will be a comfortable stroll rather than a sprint. But the key objective of Rex is still alive. And that it is to connect all of Australia’s capital cities (yes, that even includes Darwin, Sharp confirmed).

And the pace of growth does not just apply to airline routes. But also Rex lounges. Starting with the latter, Sharp makes the following comments:

In Brisbane or a Brisbane airport. We don’t have a lounge but we’ve already got the site and (there) is actually not a lot (that) needs to be done.

In Sydney, we have the site. It’s a very large site. We’re very well positioned at Sydney Airport T2 that we will start working on fairly soon and we’d like to keep our existing lounge site as well… because we often find ourselves very crowded in the lounge in Sydney.

In Melbourne, we’ve also got the site lined up and in Adelaide the site is also organised. We just need to start the work and that’ll happen next year.

Sounds like 2024 will be a big year for Rex lounges. But what about their route map? Growth is on the horizon there too. As I write this article, Rex has just taken delivery of their tenth Boeing 737 jet. But how many more 737 aircraft will we see in the Rex livery?

Rex has just welcomed its 10th Boeing 737 aircraft into its fleet.

We’re already looking at additional 737 jets to add to the fleet, which will obviously happen in the first half of next year. It takes several months from the time you identify the aircraft and you negotiate the commercial arrangements surrounding it. It takes several months for it to go in and have its full seat check and then to be painted with a new livery and then delivered to us. 

So that’ll happen in the first half of next year. There’ll be some more. I can’t tell you exactly how many more, but I’m hopeful there’ll be at least another two in the first half of next year.

But another thing that we’re doing, which is interesting, is we acquired a business which was previously called Cobham, the regional services arm of Cobham. They operate a fleet of Embraer E190s, which is a 100 seater aircraft and the Dash 8 400 series, which is an 80 seat aircraft. And we have large periods of the day when those aircraft are not operating under the contract. 

So they have to fly in, fly out operations and so on. And so we’re now starting to bring those aircraft into our fleet. And last week we had the very first application of that flying from Brisbane to Cairns in what we now call National Jet Express (NJE) aircraft. 

NJE will look to complement the mainline Rex schedule. [Source: Rex Airlines]

So aside from the entry of a charter business into the Rex Group, the acquisition of National Jet Express (NJE) will allow Rex to both increase the frequency schedule of the mainline Rex Airlines airline, as well as help with introducing new cities to its route network.

There are a number of further topics discussed in my interview with Mr Sharp. Remember, to see the full interview, make sure to check out our YouTube channel.

Summing up

My interview with John Sharp provides an interesting look into where Rex Airlines and the Rex Flyer program are headed in 2024 and beyond. From an expanded Rex Flyer program to new routes and greater frequencies on existing routes, there is plenty to look forward to for Rex passengers and frequent flyers.

While Rex planes may not be gracing the international skies anytime soon, it is great to hear that airline partnerships are on the cards, providing greater competition in the domestic airline market and, ultimately, greater choice for consumers.

Rex has taken its baby steps and is now in the walking, or even the powerwalking stage. There is plenty yet to do for the airline and Rex Flyer to match the larger rivals of Qantas and Virgin Australia. But it’s definitely heading in the right direction.

Daniel Sciberras and Tobias Venus travelled to Sydney as guests of Rex Airlines.

Interview with Rex Airlines Deputy Chairman, John Sharp AO was last modified: December 19th, 2023 by Daniel Sciberras