CHOICE membership

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



Domestic airlines all appear to be safe, so when I fly I go for price and reliability. I won’t fly with Tiger. All recent flights have been with Jetstar and I have had no problems. I don’t need special service on-board and travel only with carry-on luggage so I don’t want to pay for checked baggage and food.


Avoid jetstar and Tigerair at all costs regardless of price because of the poor service.

I think all Australian airlines are safe because of our strict standards.

Cant compare Qantas and Virgin re: service as they both have extremely different ethos.

I think Qantas is more conservative.

I think Qantas in general is more expensive and see them as a more corporate airline.

However I always fly by Qantas if they have comparable pricing with Virgin and I don’t really know why - I would say they are more Australian but that is not true so who knows.


I usually try to fly Qantas.
I base this on my contentions (which may or may not be strictly logical or correct I accept) that by doing so:

  • I am flying with an airline that has a higher profitability than many others
  • it has a track record of employing excellent pilots
  • it has a track record of good maintenance
  • the higher profits it has makes it more likely to continue to employ and train good pilots and service its aircraft very well.

Having flown with Air Alaska around the time it lost one of its jets - and all on board - from the infamous shonky maintenance of the “jack screw” in the tail section (the partial inspiration for the Denzel Washington film “Flight”) I put safety as far more important than how much money is spent on the tickets.


I have used Jetstar on numerous occasions but no more, I won’t use them again on principle - don’t care if they have the cheapest fare (unlikely).

Flew Melb - Bali a couple of years ago. They kept us sitting in the departure lounge for 7 hours before declaring that the aircraft fault was unable to be rectified, then herded us back to the Jetstar desk where we waited for an hour to be informed we would be transported by bus to Ballarat as there was no accommodation in Melbourne!

We had driven up from Gippsland that morning and there was no way we were going to Ballarat for free accommodation, so we found our own accommodation in Melb and claimed it on travel insurance.

Leaving Bali the flight ran 4 hours late.

My son lives in Perth and for reasons I can’t comprehend, the only Jetstar direct flight being offered to Perth is the red-eye. All day-time flights are via Adelaide which turns it into a 9-hour trip!

Have used Tiger only once but no problem. They usually depart late from Perth because they turn the same aircraft around for the return trip Perth - Melb but Qantas does the same thing and they are also frequently late departing Perth. Generally not a problem because the high-altitude Jetstream makes the Perth - Melb trip faster. (Once flew Qantas Perth - Melb. Departed Perth 45 mins late; arrived Melb 10 mins early. During the flight the Captain announced that our over-the-ground speed was 1,040 km/h! Not bad for a commercial jet.)


@ebaulch This wanders off topic a little, but if our airlines are also doing this, they should be called out as Which? has done in the UK.


This article may not be relevant to Australia.
There may be some support that domestic flight times in Australia over estimate actual flight time. Over more than 40 years as a regular flyer on the east coast I have my own perceptions.

There is no argument in support of payouts. This does not make sense. If you miss a connection on the same carrier I’ve always been rescheduled on an alternative. If you mix carriers then it’s up to your travel insurance or tough luck.

Total flight times do vary between trailing jet streams and head winds, IE weather. The biggest variable would in my experience be due to queuing on take-off or landing. Something all airlines have little control over. The weather a distant second.

The second observation is late or delayed flights. What ever the cause or reason most often these are measured in tens of minutes or parts of an hour. Much more than any padding of flight duration.

And yes, fog or rain or wind are sometimes a reason. Aircraft maintenance issues or crew issues might run a more distant third.

Given the more flights an aircraft can complete in a day the lower the cost to the airline and the greater the income, the preposition of the article defies economic logic for Australian domestic carriers.


Wile we do not get compensation here the way the airlines in the EU have apparently worked the system to show on-time is still relevant for the credibility of schedules. If I made the MEL-SYD flight 4 hours as scheduled I trust it would be suspicious, if you understand the point I am making.

If the airlines have improved their on time stats while making the schedules ever longer it is educational.

Normal variations are already included in scheduling from season winds and so on.

But not for customers looking for a reliable airline. Melbourne Metro played the game by improving on time performance by slowing the trains. What a deal for us commuters. Same with flights, although not exactly the same.


I think I understand the concept. Perhaps We would need to look at flight schedules over a number of years to see if they have been stretched. From flying Bris Syd and regional Qld since the 727 and DC9s there is no recollection in the last remnants of grey matter of needing to allow longer for flights, or the flight times changing dramatically since. The latest Boeing’s and Airbus aircraft have slightly improved top speeds, but not enough to make a big difference on a typical flight. The Perth red eyes may be an exception.

That the Melbourne train network may be an example is of interest. Is it possible they will be purchased by one of the airlines as part of the airport extensions?

We were only remarking on the weekend now after more than 40 years the Newcastle Sydney express trains still take 2hrs 30mins for the journey or 3hrs all stations. The only thing that has changed is the fare. I think it used to be $3.60.

Is it worthwhile doing an exercise with one of the flight tracker web sites to try and demonstrate the suggested manipulation?
My experience typically being a customer at the end of different routes and flying with the tree majors plus Sunstate suggests the opportunity to game the system is minimal.
Our collective including colleagues experiences over the prior decade is that if a flight was arriving 20 minutes late it would leave 20 minutes late and arrive at the next destination 20 mins late. It was rare to make up lost time with the exception of south ward flights on the east coast when there was a strong jet stream behind you.

Yes we have noticed a drive to try and recover lost time during turn around. But not enough to make a significant impact given all the other influences.

I’m still perplexed as to why it’s usually my flight’s luggage that is the last to appear and despite priority our bags last to appear. Perhaps the on time performance should measure the last bag onto carousel time?


Here’s the final article comparing the four major Australian domestic airlines, Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Tiger. We look at cost, passenger satisfaction, delays/cancellations and safety.


I recently flew Jetstar from Brisbane to Melbourne and back. The seats felt like they had had the foam sucked out of them and we were left with a vinyl wrapped frame to sit on. You needed a packed lunch to get to and from the boarding gate in Melbourne. It did have that cattle class feeling.
I’ve just booked a QF flight next month using my frequent flyers…luxury. I got quite excited that checked in luggage was included and I could choose my seat and a vegetarian lunch option…all at no extra cost. I will admit I actually like airline food - anytime someone wants to cook for me, I’m in heaven.:yum:
As for safety, I do have a fear of flying, probably because I worked in the industry for 30 years…the air traffic control side. I keep telling myself it’s the “swiss cheese effect” and let’s just hope that all the inbuilt redundancies work…and that the Captain doesn’t have a death wish :pray:


If Qantas is so profitable I wonder why their aircraft fleet is (relatively speaking) older that the other 3?
Wish there was some way Choice could obtain comparative data on pilot competence and plane maintenance standards including qualifications of their maintenance engineers. Do they all have standard number of check lists? Or do some airlines go beyond this with even extra tests? My family only fly Qantas because of the perceived superior safety standards.


What a wonderful thought?

There are multiple layers of checking and auditing of commercial airline operations. Some processes are internal, some are by third parties and others by regulators including CASA.

Many of the requirements are prescribed by regulations, manufacturers, and through risk management. How these are implemented for each airline will vary. It is also IP for each operator that may be commercially valuable.

All maintenance staff in Australia need to meet strict licensing requirements. Pilot training, assessment and checking is well managed.

I’m assuming that even if much of the type of information suggested was publicly available, it would take an expert to interpret the information provided. It would seem unlikely most of us could offer a reliable and informed opinion.


I posed the question to a mate who works for QF. Accepting I am filtering and simplifying it as a third person, QF apparently has a management structure whereby there is a chief pilot responsible for pilot standards, but also a ‘chief operations manager’, ‘chief maintenance manager’ and so on whose jobs and reputations are on the line should anything go amiss. He believes few other airlines put individuals in such a critical position so accountants and general management make or impact decisions that an experienced expert would make in QF. He said they do not always get it right but personal responsibility is both a motivator and facilitator to do so.

Last century when QF was the only airline with very long haul flights it was looked at as a leader in maintenance experience and protocols, but as other airlines now have regular 12 to 15+ hour flights that uniqueness has been diluted. Unfortunately my impression is QF standards are no longer uniquely above industry standards as they once were under previous managements, but remains among the best group of ‘best practice’ airlines as some others have essentially caught up. Between its structure and practices QF is probably as safe as an airline could get.

Age is not synonymous with safety until a threshold is reached, and takeoff-landing cycles are as or more important than years. Part of the profitability is a management reaction to deliver to shareholders by ‘adjusting’ capital expenditures. It would not be so profitable if there was what management argues is ‘excessive’ investment, and I think I don’t need to elaborate on the capitalistic aspects of airline businesses.


Thank you Mark for such a comprehensive overview. Much ‘food for thought’.


BBG - very comprehensive - you are truly a wealth of knowledge!