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Ranked: The best and worst airlines for delays in December

written by Adam Thorn | January 23, 2023

Rob Finlayson shot the first Jetstar A320neo LR to touch down in Melbourne in July 2022.

Jetstar’s woeful recent performance continued in December, with the airline now being the worst for both delays and cancellations.

However, Rex continued its strong performance, with less than 1 per cent of its services cancelled that month — significantly better than Jetstar’s industry low of 7.2 per cent.

Across the country, domestic flying peaked at 97 per cent pre-pandemic passenger numbers in June 2022, but it came alongside all-time records for delays being broken that month and in April and July.

Since then, the industry has recruited thousands of extra staff and cut services to improve the passenger experience.

The latest BITRE figures released by the Department of Transport show while airlines are improving, performance is still far below pre-pandemic levels.


On-time arrivals

  • QantasLink — 78.4 per cent (1)
  • Rex — 73.2 per cent (3)
  • Qantas – 73 per cent (2)
  • VARA — 69.9 per cent (4)
  • Virgin — 67.3 per cent  (6)
  • Jetstar — 62.0 per cent (5)

On-time departure

  • QantasLink — 77.6 per cent (1)
  • Rex — 75.6 per cent (2)
  • Qantas — 71.9 per cent (4)
  • VARA — 68.1 per cent (3)
  • Virgin — 67.5 per cent (5)
  • Jetstar — 60.4 per cent (6)


  • Rex – 0.7 per cent (1)
  • QantasLink – 2.5 per cent (2)
  • Qantas – 2.9 per cent (3)
  • Virgin – 3.4 per cent (4)
  • VARA – 5.0 per cent (5)
  • Jetstar – 7.2 per cent (6)

The best and worst-performing airlines are shown above. All data is for December 2022, with last month’s rankings in brackets. 

“For December 2022, on time performance over all routes operated by participating airlines (Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Rex Airlines, Virgin Australia and VARA) averaged 71.1 per cent for on time arrivals and 70.8 per cent for on time departures,” read BITRE’s latest report.

“The cancellation rate for the month was 3.4 per cent. The equivalent figures for December 2021 were 84.2 per cent for on time arrivals, 83.2 per cent for on time departures and 7.6 per cent for cancellations.

“This month’s on time arrivals figure was significantly lower than the long term average performance for all routes (81.6 per cent) and the on time departures figure was also significantly lower than the long term average (82.8 per cent).

“The rate of cancellations was higher than the long term average of 2.1 per cent.

“Cancellations were highest on the Sydney-Melbourne route at 9.3 per cent followed by the Melbourne-Sydney route at 9.1 per cent, the Sunshine Coast-Sydney route at 8.1 per cent, the Sydney-Canberra route at 7.1 per cent and the Canberra-Sydney route at 6.8 per cent.”

The improving results for those flying at Christmas appear to have come as a result of airlines continuing to keep capacity, or seats for sale, low and prices high.

Yesterday Australian Aviation revealed how, surprisingly, fewer passengers travelled through Sydney Airport in December last year than in five other months of 2022.

The business revealed passenger traffic was just 1,937,000 — down 17.5 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

It was hoped that flying would both return to traditional numbers and minimal delays at Christmas, with airlines increasing services to take advantage of the first festive period without COVID-19 restrictions in three years.

Sydney Airport’s chief executive, Geoff Culbert, said there were 411,000 fewer domestic passengers in December 2022 than in December 2019.

“There is significantly more work to do to rebuild overseas travel, with international passenger traffic still well behind pre-pandemic levels and lower flight numbers,” he said.

“Australia needs to unlock more capacity, and quickly, if we want to see a sustained recovery for our tourism, education, and export industries.”

Domestic travel peaked at 2,044,000 in October 2022 at Sydney, but that was still similarly down more than 19 per cent on the same month in 2019, suggesting a stubbornly resistant bounce back.

There were also 1,157,000 international passengers passing through the airport in December 2022, more than three times the number in December 2021, but down 27.9 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

International travel has knock-on effects for domestic, with many overseas tourists travelling around the country and subsequently booking interstate flights.

“There are some positive signs, with the number of flights to and from China rapidly increasing following that crucial border reopening and All Nippon Airways (ANA) announcing that it is doubling its Sydney to Tokyo flights to twice daily from late March,” said Culbert.

“Finally, operations at the airport continue to improve with 95 per cent of domestic passengers clearing security screening in less than 10 minutes throughout December.”

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