What's your preferred airline - and does safety influence your choice?

Do you have a preferred Australian domestic airline?

We’re looking into what people think of Australia’s four main airlines (Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin and Tigerair). Do you prefer to fly with (or avoid!) a particular airline? Do you choose your domestic flights based on the cheapest price? Best service? Comfort? Safety? Anything else?


I class Virgin and Qantas as a much of a muchness so I go for the lower fare between them. One has to add any applicable extras to get like for like; and at least between the capital cities their schedules are similar however in the regions one often rides who flies. If the fares are close I will often book by schedule noting that delays from either are all too common so an earlier departure could often result in a later arrival.

I would not fly Tiger - they do not have enough airplanes to recover from a problem and that is usually exacerbated by a sparse schedule. Anything resulting in a delay can be a cancellation that could be days of delay (unless you bail).

I had a few bookings on Jetstar but have yet to be on a Jetstar airplane. The first booking was a few years back when Jetstar was comparatively new, smaller than it is today and had a seriously bad reputation. There was some intractable problem a day ahead of the flight and getting to the airport we found Jetstar chartered a Qantas plane with crew! The second ‘Jetstar flight’ was a codeshare on a Qantas plane. And Qantas codeshares on Jetstar… codeshares should be prohibited IMHO!

I have found Virgin and Qantas to be similar overall but Virgin is usually good and has been more consistent. Qantas is either very good or pretty ordinary, cabin crew dependent. While your question was domestic, I returned from the US recently and the Qantas crew in PE was quite ordinary, and my partner coming back a few weeks later had the same experience. Unless there is a huge difference in fares next time (noting Qantas is usually on the high side) it will likely be ‘not Qantas’ based on the recent experience. BTW that flight had 5 codeshares from various airlines! All enjoyed the same ordinary service - for some it was a step down, but for others a step up.

As a baggage class flyer on the continent that has to be a joke, right?

Qantas and Virgin are both in the top 20 gloablly so again, a much of muchness between them.


Only QANTAS and Virgin fly to my home town - so given they both have corporate profit as their first ten (10) priorities and completely plunder anyone’s wallet who lives outside the big competition locations I just go for the cheapest. No, I’m not surprised they do this of course - refer comment about corporate profit :slight_smile:


zero = zero.

Neither offer this option.

I doubt they care any more than it takes to avoid litigation and get their airborne asset back to the hangar with minimal damage.

You get better service on a bus … but it takes a little longer.


Anyone but Tiger. The various TV series and lack of customer focus cut them out. Assuming they did fly all our routes. They do not.

I used to fly often ( 4 flights weekly between the other three including the occasional upgrade). Now much less but enough to have flown with each over previous year.

Qantas has lost long ago the edge it once had. Although it does treat it’s special guests well. Ask any MP? Qantas has the best lounge network, but it costs or you need to fly lots for work. Canberra Business class from Tamworth apparently does the trick? Well, no business class to Tamworth any way!

Jetstar is efficient, usually cheaper and very pedestrian.

Virgin is the current favourite, often cheaper than Qantas and close to Jetstar once you factor in all the add ins. Although it is moving closer to Qantas in performance and standards. They are getting harder to tell apart.

Price comes first providing the flight times suit. Sometimes there is a trade off for airport transfer costs outside available train times or extra accommodation costs to factor in. Anything to not pay for Airport Parking!

They all have good days and bad days. QantasLink might get a star, although you appear to have left them out of the list. Their staff are the friendliest by my experience.

Any aisle seat! There is no value in paying for more room on a domestic flight. The actual model of the plane and age of its fit out matters more than airline. It’s a bit of a lottery unless you pay to sit up front.

Not a specific concern with any! Have flown with other airlines outside of Australia, and know what can go wrong. Hopefully none of the airlines here fall to cost and competitive pressures putting safety at greater risk.

Yes, the airport experience varies greatly between airports, airlines and ticket class. While there is no clear winner, the self checkin and bag drop is a big downer. You need to think like an airline booking clerk to get passed the menus sometimes, and the peel and stick baggage checks are all different. On Jetstar recently the kiosk kept on locking up or not finding the booking. All it needed to say was - come back in ten minutes, you are too early for your flight.

You might like to consider how easy it is to upgrade or use points. The value of a point is not what it used to be. Jetstar is the most limited. Or exclude these considerations. Many regional towns have only one airline and no lounges etc. There is no reasonable choice. And excessive fares despite full flights!

That it costs more to fly to Townsville from Brisbane than Melbourne to Cairns on the same model of plane says it all.


Only service I have not used is Tiger. Have flown domestic with Virgin and Jetstar and to Asia and America with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar. All have been good and all have been mediocre. Jetstar have cancelled our flights on a homeward leg of a journey and we have had to fly into Melbourne and then to Sydney.
We look at safety records of airlines if looking at cheaper airlines.
Overall Virgin has been more acceptable as our airline of choice. Costs at the moment are not an issue.
Virgin if not sold their Business class tickets will offer a lottery system which we have used.
Service is average on most flights.


Do you have a preferred Australian domestic airline?

No. For regional routes, possibly Qantaslink is preferred over Qantas and Virgin. Even though Qantaslink is part of Qantas, the service seems to be a little better possibly because it caters for mainly business/industry travel.

We’re looking into what people think of Australia’s four main airlines (Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin and Tigerair).

See above and…

The only one I haven’t flown on regularly (or at all) if Tiger. There is not particular reason except for the fact that they don’t seem to travel on the legs we most often fly or at times that we prefer. I also agree with @PhilT that my only concern about Tiger would be its reputation in relation to cancelled flights and lack of alternative connections.

Do you prefer to fly with (or avoid!) a particular airline?

No, with exception of Qantaslink as outlined above. But Qantaslink may be the only airline servicing the particular port as well, or completion is low (e.g. used to be serviced by Virgin ATRs. but no longer are)

Do you choose your domestic flights based on the cheapest price?

Yes, both price and time of flight. If for personal travel, I avoid the bloodshot eye flights before sunrise as they tend to knock me around (being tired) for the rest of the day,

Best service? Comfort?

Qantaslink as outlined above.

I also enjoy flying on the turboprops (Bombardier series) as while they are narrow, they are reasonably comfortable for short flight legs.


Personally don’t think safety is an issue in Australia for the large commercial airlines…





These airlines have had no major safety incidents, with exception of Tiger but this was due to their safety management system rather than a aeroplane incident per say.

Tiger is the only one not given 7 stars by Airlineratings.comThe world’s best one-stop airline safety and product rating review website

I must admit when travelling domestically in other countries, the safety ratings are factored into who we fly with.

Anything else?

The other factor as outlined above is the number of flights each day, their time.


After several very unpleasant experiences with Tiger - I won’t use them. The few dollar savings just doesn’t make up for the abrasiveness and discomfort.

Jetstar only if absolutely desperate and there’s no other choice on getting to a destination at a particular time/date. Again the few dollar savings doesn’t make up for what is absent compared to Q & V.

This leaves Q & V as the options I opt for. In my opinion they are direct competitors in the same market space offering very similar levels of service and comfort.

When researching a booking, I select flights at about the time we need, then I do a like for like comparison which includes all costs (including meal/s if a longer flight, similar baggage limit and credit card charges, etc).

The value of loyalty points are disappointing with both in regards to what they will purchase. Mostly I find it is cheaper to just ignore our points and pay the cost of the flights.

So whichever of Q & V is cheapest and has the closest departure to the time we need is the one we book.


SAFETY - Cannot understand the logic behind anyone not putting safety first and foremost. I am happy for an airline to cut costs in every other way except plane engineering inspection crews and quality of pilots.


Would not fly Tiger even if given a Free ticket.


Safety - Australian airline flying is incredibly safe - even on the cheaper domestic carriers. Bus, train, car have higher fatality rates. So while I do consider safety - there’s very little difference between airlines.

Now - I have not flown on any of these carriers for 16 years. However I am planning a flight soon. As I am on a very limited income - it will be the cheapest part of the route (considering the bus/train to the airport is the most expensive part). I am flexible with time, so cancellations & delays are not a worry unless it becomes days. I am small, so seats are uncomfortable unless I can put my feet up on my bag & something behind me, and I don’t really need any attention from staff, not for the 2 hours I’m contemplating.

This is not my experience - but a friend whose saga we follow. He booked Jetstar to fly Melb-Syd Monday and Syd-Melb Friday for a 3 month job. It seemed every Mon morning flight was cancelled and bumped up to the later flight, every Friday afternoon flight was delayed or cancelled. I think he got one flight that left close to time. At one stage he was facing an overnight but managed to get on Qantas. We get messages saying “… $10 voucher and wandering the terminal for 4 hours; boarded then had to get off; 45mins reboard, wait … curfew …” Reasons for cancellation - weather (he’s a pilot and knows weather - said it was good), mechanical, etc. He suspects some reasons are proffered to avoid compensation. He had a problem with a ticket he said was booked for a particular time but they claimed despite the print-out, it was for 12 hours earlier - he suspects they overbooked - then did him a “favour” and put him on the last flight out - no voucher, no apologies. After 3 months of appalling service he couldn’t get a refund of his last month of pre-booked flights so he offered them for free to any of us that wanted to use them, and went Qantas out of loyalty as they had taken him when Jetstar completely failed one Friday - a good marketing ploy to get business travellers?


Mostly Virgin as they are cheaper and easier to get points and therefore be upgraded to silver and above than Qantas. I’ve never moved above bronze with Qantas. Only use Jetstar when they are the only direct destination option (usually to Tasmania) and have never used Tiger. I always choose direct flights and and at times that are convenient when possible. I feel Virgin and Qantas are safer, hence why I prefer them. Virgin is comfortable for us as my husband is a platinum member (due to work travel), therefore we get seats in the Economy X section. :slight_smile:


Domestic I only fly Virgin. Only on the most urgent cases would I consider Jetstar and I haven’t had to for several years now. We even changed our credit cards so that we got Velocity rewards instead of QFF.

After several issues with Jetstar is became apparent they don’t put customers first or even really make any effort. I refuse to give them any business.

I’m sure Tiger are ok most of the time but the hassle of having flights cancelled just isn’t worth the risk. A $10 flight sounds great until you have to pay all the rest of the costs associated with changing plans.


Only fly Qantas but would fly Virgin if necessary. Use the FF loyalty membership a lot. It is worth it to me especially for upgrading international flights.
Although I have not personally used them, I know that Jetstar is unreliable and cancels flights too often. Tiger is way too budget and regularly overbooks flights. Seats are much smaller than Virgin.
Safety - very important.
Comfort is important but not really an issue for domestic flights as they are usually short. I would never bother to fly anything other than economy on domestic flights.
Service - I am always happy with Qantas but I know not everyone is.
Money is not a major concern, I am prepared to pay to have the things I want or need.


I fly a fair bit for work, so the choice of airline is often out of my hands to a point. Having said that, we can and do request certain flights. Because I fly a lot, I consider I have become somewhat of a ‘travel snob’ and like my comforts/conveniences. I am a gold/platinum FF with Qantas and Virgin, so fly both of them fairly consistently. I have had good and bad experiences with both, but on the whole find them pretty well on a par. For me the choice usually gets down to availability and scheduling. I fly to a lot of regional areas, and often the only choice is Qantas. They have just been adopted as the ‘preferred airline’ for our organisation. I have yet to find anyone in our organisation (including the travel coordinator) who can tell me what that means in real terms.

I try to avoid Jetstar if at all possible (they are not so affectionately known as ‘skanstar’ and ‘jokestar’ among my colleagues) - and this in spite of the fact our organisation pays for upfront seating which comes with vouchers etc. Their on time and reliability performance makes them a choice not made lightly. Having said that, if I am flying for personal reasons, I will often choose them based on price.

I have never flown with Tiger , and wouldn’t due to unreliability. The frequency of flight cancellations ensures that are not an option, especially for work.


I fly interstate 3 or 4 times a year, mainly between Melbourne and Perth. Virgin is my airline of choice as I find that they’re consistently cheaper than Qantas and offer much the same service, including baggage and a meal when it’s a long flight. I only use Tiger when it’s super cheap as I don’t think much of the squashy seats and absolutely no inclusions with your ticket. However, I think their standard has gone up a little in recent times as I gather they’re now part of/connected to Virgin. The most delays etc have occurred when I’ve booked with Jetstar and I class them as on a par with Tiger.


Q and V are very similar these days but have a preference for Virgin.

I know I am the odd one out here but I have done a few flights with Tiger over the past couple of years and I have found them great. Sure the service is like catching the bus and you only get the “extras” that you pay extra for but what would you expect for the price. My flights have been mostly on time with one delayed about 40 minutes. For that one I was sent an sms about two hours before the flight with a good and accurate explanation of the delay I should expect. If you took tiger many years ago and have not been back then take a fresh look. To those who have never flown Tiger but fly Jetstar, I would prefer Tiger of the two by a good margin. Just make sure that after you have paid for everything you want with a budget airline that you are getting value and would not be better off with Virgin or Qantas.


I choose QANTAS mainly because of FF points. Happy to fly Virgin but I am past being squeezed up in low cost operations.


Our youngest daughter and our only grandchild live in W.A. so we fly there from Sydney pretty regularly. We find Qantas the best option for comfort, reasonable all inclusive fares, safety and reliability.


Prefer Qantas & Virgin as much more reliable than Jetstar or Tiger.

Virgin has the edge over Qantas as there is generally more leg room. Qantas is now really cramming the seats together which is bad for trips greater than 1hr.

Although Qantas does serve food this is generally memorable for how poor it is. Service in Virgin is also generally better.


When reviewing the feedback on this topic - how does Choice propose to objectively consider the safety question?

Choice will have a snapshot of opinion based on individual perceptions. However some of the topics are objectively measured. Safety performance within the airline industry and on time flight performance/cancellation/rescheduling are both measured within the industry.

The big three Jetstar, Virgin, Qantas (with or without it’s regional subsidiaries) have over recent years all reported significant near miss or inflight events. A number of these may have been outside of the airline to control. Is there value in providing feedback on the actual objectively measured safety performance of each airline as a control against our perceptions?

I consider safety a key factor in not choosing a carrier, route or destination. I don’t feel there is any difference between the three main Australian domestic carriers safety outcomes or attitudes. Tiger remains an unknown.

Qantas probably has the most to loose from a significant incident given it’s iconic international reputation. That does not necessarily ensure Qantas is any safer in real terms, but may feed customers perceptions. A safe airline is only one incident removed from being a bad airline. It would be an interesting aside as a consumer to know the extent of safety data publicly available for each carrier and the actual trends over the past decade for each. Given the extent of ‘simplifying’ of any published data may not provide a suitable tool for review.

For the future?
Qantas domestically also operates through a number of regional carriers who operate different aircraft types. The routes and airports operated have different risk profiles - reduced or no air traffic control being one difference. Qantas may do this for commercial reasons, marketing differentiation, safety reputation protection (not a Qantas operated service!), or all three?

There are also many locations in Australia serviced only by much smaller local carriers operating aircraft that can have long histories. These carriers provide essential connections while operating on tight budgets. There is a long history with these carriers, of flights with serious incidents and fatal consequences. The fatality rate as a safety measure against passenger miles for these types of services might be a more practical consideration to include in any future Choice reviews.

While the current topic scope will be useful to many of us, would the better objective for Choice be to seek out the least safe options when flying commercially, and in true Ralph Nader tradition seek to change this outcome?
Which domestic aircraft or routes or carriers are the Chevrolet Corvair of the 21st century?
I’d like to believe that the next flight I make on a Twin Otter, a Super King Air 200-350 or a Saab 340 etc the odds of a successful landing are favourable.

Some of us have been known to take to the air to do our job, in high altitude helicopters for skiing, vintage aircraft for joy flights, or Robinson R22’s cattle mustering because we are plain crazy, enjoy the adrenaline rush and perhaps share feelings of closeness to our god/s. In all of these instances where the risks are high and statistically adverse there is a conscious decision made in advance concerning the acceptance of the risks. Any commercial passenger flight should not need to be seen the same way?