As Qantas dominates the news feeds for all the wrong reasons, Australia’s newest domestic airline, Rex, has walked away with an Airline of the Year award.

The inaugural Australian Aviation Awards were presented last week in Sydney, where Rex was declared the Airline of the Year. Rex chief operating officer Neville Howell accepted the award and made special mention of the airline’s executive chairman Lim Kim Hai, saying he had “steered us through some very stormy waters. It’s been very, very tough, and he knows as well as I, you can’t do it by yourself; you need good people.”


Rex wins the 2022 Australian Aviation Airline of the Year Award. Photo: Rex

It’s the Rex team that makes the difference

Leaving none of Rex’s 1,650 staff out, he added, “And we are very fortunate at Rex to have fantastic baggage handlers that don’t lose bags, great flight crew and flight attendants, fantastic airport staff and the most magnificent people in admin, they have all helped us through this difficult period.”

“So to them, this is for them, they’ve done this for us and we feel indebted to them for everything they have done for this airline.”

Mentioning baggage handlers first seems like a very pointed reference to Qantas and its CEO Alan Joyce. Qantas is in the midst of a firestorm with the union that represents baggage handlers, even though the airline outsourced baggage handling and around 2000 jobs in 2020. So bitter is the ongoing dispute that the union has called a strike for next Monday by its members working for Dnata, the baggage handler who now services Qantas.

This is the 7th Boeing B737-800 to join Rex’s domestic fleet, with two more to be added as soon as possible. Photo: Rex

Rex earned its stripes in regional Australia

While Rex is a new entrant to Australia’s domestic market, it has a long history of service to regional and rural cities throughout Australia. It was formed out of the ashes of the Ansett Airlines collapse in 2002 under the Regional Express banner, operating its first flight from Wagga Wagga Airport (WGA) in New South Wales to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD). It assembled the world’s largest fleet of Saab 340 aircraft, which perfectly suited the extensive regional network it built to connect rural communities to major centers.

The Saab 340B fleet forms the backbone of Rex’s regional turboprop operations. Photo: Regional Express/Rex

In 2020 it announced it was entering Australia’s mainline domestic market, competing head-on with Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin Australia. It launched its first domestic flight in March 2021 between Melbourne and Sydney and now operates a fleet of seven Boeing B737-800s on routes to Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide.

The Rex Group also owns Pel-Air Aviation, an air freight, charter and aeromedical operator, and the Australian Airline Pilot Academy, which has campuses in Wagga Wagga and Ballarat, Victoria.

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The Australian Aviation Awards are produced by Australian Aviation magazine with the support of the University of New South Wales School of Aviation. There are 20 individual and group awards, with the winners selected from a short list of 118 finalists. On an excellent night for regional aviation, Tasmania’s Launceston Airport (LST) received the Airport of the Year award and the Aviation Professional of The Year went to Kestrel Aviation’s head of training, Richard Butterworth.

At the ceremony, Australian Aviation’s Adam Thorn said that no country relies on aviation as much as Australia, and it’s a credit to the whole of the industry that it made it all the way through the pandemic. “Our nominees and winners did something even more special, they thrived during the toughest period in aviation’s history.”

This content was originally published here.