Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Juan Ruiz
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Much to my surprise, I recently realized that it doesn’t always pay to be loyal.
I mostly travel around Europe and the U.S. where it usually makes sense for me to fly with British Airways or American Airlines so I can make the most of the perks I get for having British Airways Executive Club Gold status (BA Gold status also gives me Oneworld Emerald status).
That all changed recently when I decided to fly an Australian regional airline over Qantas — a Oneworld member airline and Australia’s flag carrier.
I needed a flight that would leave Brisbane early enough to get me into Sydney before midday so I’d have enough time to catch my Air New Zealand flight to Auckland (AKL), which I’d booked separately.
With those parameters in mind, my Google Flights search presented me with a few options, including Rex for $83, Virgin Australia for $96, and Qantas for more than double Rex, at a whopping $194.
Interestingly, Jetstar — Australia’s low-cost airline and subsidiary of Qantas — had no flights available for my preferred flight departure time of between 8 and 9 a.m. If I didn’t despise really early departures, I could have got an even cheaper flight with Jetstar for just $71 at 6:15 a.m.
Having never flown Rex, and knowing very little about the airline, I was curious to see what value I’d get for an $83 flight over a $194 flight with my preferred airline, Qantas.
It turns out, that you get some real bang for your buck, even with Rex’s most basic economy fares.
For $83 (or AU$119 as per the screenshot), I’d get 1 personal item, 1 piece of carry-on baggage, 1 checked bag up to 23 kilograms (50 pounds), and free seat selection. Plus, the short flight would offer a service featuring snacks, water, and tea or coffee.
That said, I wouldn’t receive free lounge access or priority treatment when passing through security and boarding the plane. Given that those were the main 2 elite elements I’d be forfeiting by flying Rex, I decided to compare what I’d get with an equivalent Qantas fare before deciding which flight to book.
I looked into what the basic economy fares of Qantas would get me in terms of checked baggage, lounge access, seat selection, priority lanes and boarding, and the miles and status earning potential to make a rounded decision about which airline to fly.
To my surprise, Rex came out on top — here’s why:
Checked baggage fees can turn a really cheap fare into an average fare pretty quickly. Thankfully for me, Australia doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo for charging for bags, as I’d also received a free 23-kilogram checked bag (50 pounds) with Qantas and Virgin Australia.
Because of my Oneworld Emerald status, I’d have been allowed to check a second bag weighing 23 kilograms.
While I didn’t have a second bag to check in, my luggage weighed 29 kilograms (64 pounds) at my last weigh-in. I wasn’t going to let Rex’s 23-kilogram limit deter me as I’d just cram my heavier possessions into my carry-on rucksack to lighten the load of my larger bag. Then, as I was progressing through the stages of the booking process, I was given the option to add luggage weight capacity in 5-kilogram increments for a small fee.
I had never seen this before and was happy to see that for an extra AU$10 ($7), I could add on 5 kilograms and have to cram less into my rucksack.
I was still happy with my Rex fare even though the total price had increased to $90.
Hot Tip: Planning a trip to Australia? Then why not consider booking your flight with Delta to Sydney and connect onto a Rex flight to 16 destinations across Australia? You’ll only need 1 ticket and your bag will be checked to your final destination.
Another great perk of having Oneworld Emerald status is that, depending on which Oneworld carrier I’m flying with, I’d be eligible to select the seat I want for free. While this is true for bookings with British Airways, American Airlines, and Finnair, it’s not the case for Qantas.
Qantas would have charged me AU$10 ($7) to select preferred seat 9A even with my Oneworld status. With Rex, it was the same price for a seat even closer to the front of the aircraft, so I went ahead and locked in seat 4A for AU$10 ($7).
Rex’s seat prices range from AU$15 ($10) in row 3 (the first row of economy) to seats for just AU$6 ($4) further back in the cabin.
I could, of course, have chosen to opt out of seat selection to be randomly assigned a seat at check-in for free. However, being the AvGeek that I am, it’s important for me to have a window seat in front of the wing when I fly.
The total cost of my flight had now crept up to $97 (base fare of $83 + $7 for extra baggage weight + $7 for seat selection).
I’ll admit, this is very controversial of me.
I’m usually the kind of traveler who arrives at the airport well in advance of his flight to spend time grazing (or sometimes sipping) and working from a lounge.
However, when it comes to a pre-9-a.m. flight, I just want to get to the airport with enough time to check my bag, clear security and immigration, and head straight to the gate.
So, on this particular occasion, I was happy to sacrifice the time in the Qantas domestic lounge that my Oneworld Emerald status would have afforded me in favor of flying Rex for half the price and no lounge access at all.
Rex does give passengers the option to pay AU$33 ($23) for a pass which would give 2 hours of lounge access between the times of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Rex Lounges in Adelaide (ADL), Melbourne (MEL), and Sydney (SYD).
Flying Qantas would have given me access to priority check-in, the priority/fast-track security lane, and priority boarding. I would get no such benefits when flying Rex.
No matter. Flying on a domestic flight within Australia is way more of a breeze than in the U.S., or even within the Schengen zone in Europe.
I was shocked when Australian friends said they regularly rocked up to airports sometimes less than an hour before their flight’s departure.
A few days later I had this experience myself when I flew from Sydney to Melbourne on my first domestic flight in Australia.
I was surprised to find just a handful of passengers checking in at Qantas’ dedicated domestic terminal at Sydney Airport. My access to the priority check-in area was redundant as there were even fewer passengers in the regular economy check-in and bag drop area.
Even at Australia’s busiest airport, there were very few people in both the priority and non-priority security lanes at 12:30 p.m.
Granted, it wasn’t peak travel time, but I can’t remember the last time I made it to the departures terminal so quickly. I can’t quite believe it myself, but it took just 5 minutes from arriving at the check-in desk to getting into departures post-security — wow!
After that experience, I decided I’d be happy to forgo my Oneworld priority benefits, especially as I’d be flying from Brisbane which sees around half the number of annual passengers that Sydney does.
I checked BA’s Avios and Tier Point calculator to find out I’d earn a measly 5 Tier Points and 117 Avios for the short hop from Brisbane to Sydney.
As I’m British Airways Executive Club Gold until April 2024, I’m not in any hurry to earn more Tier Points. I’m not short on Avios, too, so I wouldn’t be losing any sleep over missing out on either.
If I’d have flown Virgin Australia, I could have entered my Virgin Atlantic Flying Club number which would also have earned a small number of miles and Tier Points. This still wasn’t enough to sway me from flying Rex.
Hot Tip: When flying Virgin Australia, you can add loyalty program numbers from several airlines to your booking and earn the program’s relevant miles and status points. Airlines include Air Canada, Etihad, Hawaiian Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Qatar Airways, South African Airways, Singapore Airlines, United, and Virgin Atlantic.
After I took all of the above factors into consideration, I realized I’ll have pretty much the exact same experience whether I’d have paid $83 for Rex or $194 for Qantas.
At this point it was a no-brainer: even with an additional $14 for additional luggage weight and seat selection, Rex’s $97 fare was enough to successfully take my business from Qantas, which would have charged me double for a very similar trip.
This is the first time in a long time that I’ve actively chosen to fly a non-Oneworld carrier in favor of a competitor.
Would I come to regret my decision? I’ll find out on February 3, 2023, when I take my first Rex flight to Sydney.
Rex is an Australian regional airline that operates dozens of routes from its hubs in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney as well as intra-regional connections throughout Australia.
The following 13 airlines are full members of the Oneworld alliance: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, and Sri Lankan Airlines.
Flying with airlines within the same alliance as often as possible is usually the fastest way to get elite status with an airline. Also, credit cards sometimes offer perks to help flyers fast-track earning elite status. Check out our guide to the best credit cards for earning airline elite status.
Thanks to the many perks such as priority check-in, extra baggage allowance, and complimentary upgrades, having elite status with an airline can be well worth it if you’re a frequent flyer.
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