In April, Australia’s domestic carriers fell short of what’s expected in punctuality and reliability, although one is clearly the most reliable.

REX Boeing 737-800
Photo: Rex

Australia’s domestic airlines have pretty much shaken off all the dust and cobwebs from COVID-19, and with high airfares, full airplanes and more than healthy profits, life is good for bosses and shareholders. It’s a year since the sector, particularly the major carriers, virtually melted down when it couldn’t handle the peak Easter holiday period, so how are passengers faring now?

The airline’s monthly scorecard

Every month Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) produces an On Time Performance (OTP) report of the nation’s domestic airlines. At this early stage of our discussion, it’s worth highlighting again that, for some obscure reason, aviation considers on time as anything that is not more than 15 minutes late, a model now adopted by food delivery drivers.

Qantas Boeing 737-800

Photo: Ryan Fletcher I Shutterstock.

The airlines that currently provide the data are Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Rex Airlines, Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, which together carry more than 95% of domestic passengers. The newest airline, Bonza, is not on the scoreboard yet, and whether it joins the program remains to be seen.

The headline numbers are 71.8% of arrivals and 71.2% of departures occurred within the on time window, and 3.9% of all flights were canceled. While these are better numbers than in 2022, they fall significantly short of the long-term averages of 81.5%, 82.6% and cancelations of 2.1%. In April 2019, the all-airline averages were 82.6%, 82.9% and 1.5%, respectively, which suggests Australia’s aviation industry still has plenty of ground to make up in terms of customer satisfaction and reliability.

Virgin Australia 737-700 take off

Photo: Ryan Fletcher I Shutterstock.

It is nice if the flight arrives or departs from the gate on the time it is supposed to, but what is more important is that it operates at all. In that regard, if you want the most chance of your flight actually happening then Rex is your best bet, as in April it had the lowest cancelation rate, just as it has done for most of the last twelve months. Last month Rex canceled 2.8% of its flights, ahead of Virgin Australia at 2.9%, QantasLink at 3%, Qantas at 3.6%, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines at 5.6% and Jetstar at 8.1%

BITRE Australia Domestic Cancelations

Chart: BITRE

The Golden Triangle

Pre-pandemic the route between Melbourne and Sydney was considered the second most profitable in the world and remains the base of Australia’s Golden Triangle, the east coast routes between Melbourne (MEL), Sydney (SYD) and Brisbane (BNE). Despite the predictions of its demise and replacement by Zoom, business travel, particularly between Melbourne and Sydney, has bounced back quickly.

Jetstar A321LR VH-OFQ Avalon Airshow

Photo: Michael Doran I Simple Flying

Corporate and business travelers demand OTP and reliability, so it is interesting to poke around the BITRE report to see what happened to reliability on those routes in April. From Melbourne to Sydney Rex canceled 1.9% of its flights, Virgin Australia 7.4%, Qantas 9.4% and Jetstar 13.3%. From Melbourne to Brisbane the cancellation rates were Rex 1.4%, Qantas 3.7%, Virgin Australia 4.2% and Jetstar 18.3%.

OTP between Melbourne and Sydney showed that Rex flights arrived on time at 78%, Qantas at 73%, Virgin Australia at 67.7%, and Jetstar at 65%.

The interesting thing is that the vast majority of Australians have no idea about these statistics and have grown to accept that flights arrive and depart when they do, and there’s not much you can do about it. Cancelations are a different matter, which is why Jetstar is suffering and needs to get its house in order before the summer holidays. But for reliability, the numbers don’t lie, and Rex comes out on top, for April anyway.

What do you think of these performances? Let us know in the comments.


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