Full-cost carriers or budget airlines: Which offer better value?

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Do low-cost flights really offer a bargain, or do the included extras in full-service flights justify the higher pricing? Independent platform for one of Australia’s biggest communities of frequent flyers and rewards point experts Point Hacks has done the research to deliver the answer.

Point Hacks compared the total costs of Qantas and Virgin Australia with Jetstar and Tigerair by flying one-way from Sydney to Brisbane, and including minimum 20kg luggage, inflight catering, seat selection, and inflight entertainment and wifi.

The Qantas ticket price comes out as the most expensive of all the four airlines at $185 plus payment fees (credit card surcharge and booking fees). Although the priciest, the ticket price includes all the extras such as seat selection, 23kg of checked luggage allowance (in addition to 14kg of carry-on baggage) and inflight catering and entertainment.

Standard seat selection and full meals and beverages are always complimentary with Qantas, but extra legroom seats can be purchased for an additional $25. Entertainment wise, wifi is not available on all of Qantas aircrafts, but inflight entertainment is.

A fare with the Qantas subsidiary Jetstar costs $97 plus payment fees, which does not include any extras besides a 7kg carry-on allowance. However, Jetstar has the option to add a bundle to your booking (starting at $40), which includes extra checked baggage, standard seat selection, and inflight food and drink.

Not happy with your standard seat selection? On top of the bundle price, you can pay $12 for an upfront seat for quick exits or $13 for a seat with extra legroom. The bundle also includes a meal, but it can be purchased individually, and prices range from $6–$15. Currently, inflight entertainment is only available on Jetstar’s international flights.

Virgin Australia
The second most expensive fare goes to Virgin Australia, which charges $165 plus payment fees for flying from Sydney to Brisbane. This price includes 23kg of checked baggage, as well as food and beverage.

Virgin provides the option to select a standard seat free of charge or an Economy X seat for $35, which gets you extra legroom and preferred overhead lockers. When it comes to food, Virgin offers a complimentary snack with a choice of drink. However, they also provide an onboard menu where customers can choose heavier food or drink items, and prices range from $3.50–$19. Similar to Qantas, Virgin provides inflight entertainment, however a selection of internet packages is subject to the aircraft.

Tigerair offers the cheapest fare out of the four at $79.95 plus payment fees. Like Jetstar, all extras besides two carry-on items with a combined weight of 7kg can be purchased at an extra cost. Virgin Australia’s subsidiary does not offer bundles, so additional baggage, meals or seat selection must be purchased individually.

When it comes to selecting seats, Tigerair charges $5 for a standard seat, $10 for a seat at the front of the plane, and $16 for a seat with extra legroom. Pre-ordering meals when booking is currently unavailable, but customers can purchase meals during the flight. Wifi or inflight entertainment is not available on Tigerair, so bringing your own entertainment is recommended.

“Deciding whether to go with a full-cost or low-cost comes down to personal preference,” says frequent flyer expert Daniel Sciberras.

“When basing it on price, Jetstar and Tigerair work out to be cheaper even with the add-ons; however, Qantas and Virgin Australia are known for their superior service and provide inflight entertainment on most flights.

“Full-cost carriers also give you peace of mind, especially when travelling with checked baggage, as low-cost carriers can charge a hefty cost when you need to add on extras at the airport. If checked baggage, seat selection and meals are the least of your concerns, then Jetstar and Tigerair’s ‘no frills’ flights deliver good value for money to more price-conscious travellers, with their fares costing only half of what the full-service carriers charge.”


Base fare

Baggage allowance

Seat selection

Inflight catering

Total cost (ex. fees)



14kg carry-on plus 23kg checked baggage

$45 per excess bag


$25 for extra legroom



Virgin Australia


7kg carry-on plus 23kg checked baggage

$39 per excess bag


$35 for Economy X





7kg carry-on, no checked baggage

$40 for 20kg (bundle)

Free with bundle

$7 for standard seat

$12 for front seat

$13 for extra legroom

Yes – with bundle

$6–$15 per meal




7kg carry-on, no checked baggage

$20 for 20kg

$5 for standard seat

$10 for front seat

$16 for extra legroom

No onboard meals currently available


Which airline and class do you think provides the best value?

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Written by Point Hacks


Total Comments: 8
  1. 0

    Regulation needed here – no wonder we have air rage going on with this confusing array of costs and charges.

  2. 0

    The comparisons are a nonsense as domestic flights only take a short time so who needs all the bells and whistles. Surely the idea is to get from point A to point B at either the cheapest or close to cheapest price.
    We fly Jetstar. Not because we like the operation, which is pretty god, but because we fly regularly. The only gripe we have is that when you have to cancel a flight well ahead of the the flight you lose your money. That is pretty bad business and the ACCC should clamp down on this. Of course our regulators are shopfronts for the most part and look the other way.

  3. 0

    We fly to Hobart a couple of times per year, and mostly use business. Economy seat room sucks, and being of a generous build, I can’t even comfortably drop the tray. Next trip in October we’re flying Qantas down (seeing I have a bucket load of points) but for the first time going Virgin back, both flights in business. Used to fly Rex to get to and from Mascot, but they have let us down too many times, so this time we’re driving to Sydney and staying at a hotel at the airport that includes seven days parking in the room rate. Perfect. To be honest, I have heard too many crappy stories about budget airlines to even bother.

  4. 0

    Two things to consider. Qantas and Virgin have more flight choices – if there is a delay or flight cancellation you may be able to get onto another flight, important if you have connections to make. If you arrive early they may put you on an earlier flight. Also, don’t know if its my imagination, but Jetstar seems extremely squishy. I had quite a severe neck issue after a flight from Brisbane to Adelaide due to cramped seating. The twice we have flown Tiger to Melbourne we had long delays and missed connections. Caught a later flight thanks to the generosity of the other carrier the first time but ended up hiring a car to get to our regional destination the second time. Would have been far cheaper to go with a more reliable carrier with connections. Qantas and Virgin for us.

  5. 0

    For a start I do not patronise Virgin or Tigerair, they are owned by Chinese and Singaporean interests with a small stake by Virgin. At least Qantas and Jetstar are majority Australian owned and, as I like my bells and whistles, I nearly always choose Qantas.

  6. 0

    For a start I do not patronise Virgin or Tigerair, they are owned by Chinese and Singaporean interests with a small stake by Virgin. At least Qantas and Jetstar are majority Australian owned and, as I like my bells and whistles, I nearly always choose Qantas.

  7. 0

    It’s the partnering I don’t like. I booked Qantas to Fiji and was put on a Fiji Air flight over which was good, but coming back I was on Miami Air which was definitely not Qantas standard, but Qantas price.

  8. 0

    will not fly budget airlines…I also like to know that they will take off on time and Virgin leads them in that regard.

    Virgin Australia also achieved the highest level of on time departures among the major domestic airlines for June 2019 at 83.2 per cent, followed by Qantas at 80.9 per cent, Jetstar at 77.1 per cent and Tigerair Australia at 68.2 per cent.



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