Which Australian airline is the worst for cancellations?

People queuing at an airport

Well, this is awkward for Qantas. It’s discount arm, Jetstar, has out-performed it in the latest on-time performance statistics for cancelled flights.

According to Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and the Arts (who put that lot together?) Qantas recorded the highest percentage of cancellations at 4.3 per cent, followed by Jetstar and Virgin, both at 4.1 per cent, QantasLink on 3.6 per cent, Virgin Regional on 3.2 per cent and your safest bet to get in the air is Rex, with only 2.3 per cent rate of cancellations.

Overall, the average on-time arrivals and departures for all Australian domestic airlines was 71.1 per cent.

The figure is up slightly from the previous month. September recorded 69.3 per cent on time for arrivals and 68.5 per cent on time for departures.

However, that’s significantly lower than the long-term figures. Australian domestic average is 81.2 per cent on time for arrivals and 82.3 for departures.  

On time

Qantas scored a bit better for on-time departures for the month. The major carrier recorded that 72.7 per cent of flights left on time. Next best was Virgin on 68.9 per cent.

I don’t know about you, but if I could only perform 72 per cent of my job properly, I’d be out of work.

And it appears Alan Joyce’s financially rewarding time at Qantas is not over, with the announcement that he is in line for another $6.1 million bonus despite resigning in September.

Mr Joyce was paid $21.4 million last year and is estimated to have earned an astonishing $125 million during his time with Qantas.

That’s a lot of money to essentially trash a treasured national brand.

This year the Qantas board, which is responsible for setting executive pay – that’s right, it’s own pay – agreed to cut short-term incentives by 20 per cent.

Executive bonuses

According to The Guardian, a component of executive bonus calculations tied to customer satisfaction was also wound down to zero.

Was that such a hardship though? There can’t be much customer satisfaction at Qantas.

At least they have acknowledged that.

Chairman Richard Goyder said in a statement that the airline had some work ahead to regain the confidence of its customer base.

“The company is experiencing an acute loss of trust from the community, and accumulated disappointment from customers, which the board and management are determined to fix,” he said.

However, he spoilt it a bit by going on to say “much of the loss of trust stems from allegations by the ACCC”. 

Oh no Mr Goyder, consumers didn’t need to wait until the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission got involved, we knew Qantas was being run into the ground long before then.

Which airline do you prefer to fly with? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: How will airlines accommodate an increasing number of wider passengers?

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


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  1. On 23 November Virgin cancelled numerous flights. I was put on one next day which left one and half hours late. I had to find my own accommodation for the night $200 pp limit! Try finding something for that amount half decent. And $30 meal allowance per night!! Then spending an inordinate amount of my time getting receipts organised to scan & uploaded and filling out forms. I’ll be doing more road trips.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. As an Australian I am really disappointed by the demise of a national icon, presided over by a non-national executive. Wherever did they find him? But more serious than that is the impact on peoples lives when airlines run late or worse still cancel. If you add up the collective, cost, strain, incidental impact and distress, of hundreds of lives and second level on their families and loved ones, it’s a considerable responsibility. Increasingly the contract between airlines and their passengers is one way on the responsibility side, made worse by an attitude of superiority in their rules and indifference toward you, that leaves you feeling like you are a nuisance and a potential pest. Flying is increasingly stressful and fraught, where it used to be a special experience.

  3. Qantas began it’s downhill run the day they privatised. I worked on long haul runs for 15 years and I know that everything started to go downhill from that point of privatisation. I was always so incredibly proud to work for the Australian flagship a company that cared for passengers, safety and staff. Joyce was the final nail in the coffin a disgraceful disgusting choice in a long line of bad choices. Friends of mine and myself personally would not fly on quite as if we were given free first class tickets. The airline is a disgrace and an embarrassment to our country and should never have been sold off by greedy politicians.

  4. I have flown return between Gold Coast and Queenstown NZ this year on 3 separate times and this was with JetStar. I have absolutely no complaints with these flights. The second trip was delayed but I got notification very late the night before so was prepared, the 1st and 3rd return trips there were no hold ups, the crew were amazing and couldn’t have been more helpful.

    I haven’t flown with Qantas for years since one of the crew spilt a scalding cup of tea over me and told me basically “shit happens”!!! They had no towels for me to try and dry off and couldn’t have cared less.

    So I’ll never fly with Qantas as long as I’m breathing as they are so damned ignorant, but JetStar excelled in every way this year!

  5. UUGGHHH … Jetstar is currently my least favourite airline. Recently my two daughters were hoping to have their first holiday together. A few days in Sydney which they had scrimped and saved for over a period of time. A few days without the day to day worries of their normal commitments at home. With the press of a button .. kaboom .. their weekend getaway now cost them an additional $800. Only because Jetstar cancelled their flight home late on a Sunday afternoon. Jetstar was totally useless in making alternate arrangements for them to return home, return to their families, return to their jobs and return to their safe haven. Being abandoned in Sydney it cost my girls an additional $800 to book an URGENT flight home with Virgin. I wonder if the airlines are in cahoots with each other and have perfected how to bleed more money out of customers. Very very disappointed in all this fiasco.

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