Which Australian airline has the most flight delays?

New data reveals the most punctual airlines in Australia and which routes are most plagued by flight delays and cancellations. 

Domestic and international travel has returned to a pre-pandemic normal in 2023. However, as more of us embark upon cross-country and international sojourns, it seems that airports and airlines aren’t yet operating full capacity staffing or schedules. As a result, passengers are encountering flight delays and cancellations. In fact, data collected by the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) found that September 2023’s on-time arrivals and departures were significantly lower than the long-term average performance for all routes. Airlines such as Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Rex Airlines, Skytrans, Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines averaged on-time arrivals of 72.1%, 71.6% for on-time departures, and a cancellation rate of 3.6%.

Which Australian airline has the most flight cancellations? 

In September 2023, Jetstar recorded the highest percentage of cancellations at 4.9%, followed by Virgin Australia Regional Airlines at 4.4%, Skytrans at 4.2%, and Virgin Australia at 3.9% – all above the national cancellation average.

Jetstar plane
©Unsplash/ Hendri Lidayani

Which Australian airline has the most flight delays?  

Data indicates that Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Skytrans experienced the most delays in September 2023. Jetstar reported 69.7% on-time arrivals, 67.2% on-time departures and 4.9% cancellations across 7506 sectors scheduled. Skytrans clocked in on-time arrivals and departures at 67.7% and cancellations at 4.2 across 330 sectors scheduled. Virgin Australia reported on-time arrivals at 67.6%, on-time departures at 67% and cancellations at 3.9% across 11,894 sectors scheduled. 

Which Australian airline is the most reliable? 

Regional airline Rex is typically considered to be Australia’s most reliable airline and was awarded Airline of the Year at the 2023 Australian Aviation Awards. Rex usually has the highest on-time arrivals at 75.5%, departures at 77.8%, and the fewest flight delays and cancellations at 2.6% in September. However, QantasLink turned the tables that month with 77% on-time arrivals and 76.8% on-time departures.

Of the general domestic airlines, the monthly report found Qantas to be the most reliable achieving the highest on-time arrivals and departures of around 74%, and cancellations of 3.2%. 

Wing of Qantas plane
©Unsplash/ Joseph Bobadilla

Which routes suffered the most cancellations? 

The BITRE monthly report found that flight cancellations are highest on the Melbourne to Sydney route at 8%. The Devonport to Melbourne route was the next most affected at 7.9% cancellations, followed by the Sydney-Melbourne route at 7.8% and the Armidale to Sydney at 7.6%. The Sydney to Melbourne route has been plagued by problems in 2023, with Australian Aviation reporting almost 2300 flights cancelled on this route in the first six months of 2023. 

What causes flight delays and cancellations?

One of the most obvious factors when it comes to flight delays and cancellations is weather, as it’s unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, when the sun is out and the skies are clear, airline delays and cancellations are most often due to human error. Occurrences such as staffing shortages, waiting for crew, catering or luggage to be loaded, air traffic delays, mechanical issues and security concerns contribute to a later-than-scheduled take-off. 

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