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'Tis the season for frustrating flight delays


Planning to catch up with family this Christmas? Then you need to know which domestic airlines might get you there on time.

  • News
  • Read Time: 5 mins

Tips for travellers


Fly in the morning

Flight delays tend to pile up throughout the day so the chances of catching a postponed or cancelled flight are greatly increased if you’re booked to fly in the afternoon or evening.

Check-in online 

Most airlines allow you to check in online within 24 hours of the flight. Once checked in, you can get updates on the status of your flight before you’ve even left home, so you can plan accordingly.

Use carry-on only 

This makes things much easier if you’re running late for a connecting flight.

Call the airline 

Even if you are in a rebooking queue at the airport, call the airline. You may reach someone over the phone before you get to the front of the queue.

Don’t plan activities for your arrival day 

For peace of mind, leave the day you fly free. 

Further reading: Bags To Go 

Australia’s domestic airlines have had a bad rap for various reasons lately.

Most recently, there have been complaints about chronic delays and cancellations and even allegations of “ghost flights”, where tickets were sold for services that had already been cancelled.

According to official statistics, about 73% of Qantas group flights arrived on time compared with 68.8% for Virgin group.

A breakdown by actual airline puts Qantas, the flagship carrier, last – but there’s not much in it.

Overall, the figures released by the Bureau of Infrastructure Transport Research Economics (BITRE) show nearly a third of Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin Australia domestic flights were late in October.

Virgin had the highest level of on-time arrivals among the major domestic airlines at 68.6%, followed by Jetstar at 68% and Qantas at 66.6%.

The overall cancellation rate was 3.8% of all flights, which was nearly double the long-term average before COVID-19 of 2.2%. Before the pandemic, airlines averaged about 81% on-time flights.

Experts say issues contributing to poor performance include maintenance, staffing, and air traffic control shortages. These tight supply chain conditions are not expcted to ease until 2027.

Cancellation rate


Sydney Airport experienced most cancellations and delays, and that cascaded into other airports.

The highest level of cancellations was from Sydney to Armidale, followed by Melbourne to Sydney, from Armidale to Sydney, and from Sydney to Melbourne.

The BITRE statistics show more than 47% of Jetstar flights from Melbourne to Adelaide were delayed and 42% of Jetstar flights from Brisbane to Melbourne left late. From Melbourne to Brisbane, more than half of the scheduled flights were delayed.

QantasLink performed even worse on the Launceston-Sydney route, where 63.3% of flights were delayed.

The performance figures come as the airlines are under increasing scrutiny, and amid calls for better passenger compensation.

Monique Ryan, the independent MP in the Victorian electorate of Kooyong, has asked the government to set up a compensation scheme like that in the European Union, where airlines must pay travellers when they suffer excessive delays. The airlines say this would result in higher airfares.

Related reading: BITRE, AFR 

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