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‘Maybe plane’s coming, maybe it doesn’t’: Shorten slams airlines

written by Jake Nelson | July 26, 2023

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten. (Image: Bill Shorten MP/Facebook)

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten has given the major airlines a spray over reliability issues as BITRE data showed around 70 per cent of flights were delayed during June.

Speaking on Today this week, Shorten, now the Federal Minister for Government Services, seemed to agree with host Karl Stefanovic’s description of Australia’s airports as a “basket case” beset by “last minute cancellations [and] delays that stretch into the hours and days”.

Analysis by Australian Aviation recently showed that on just one route – Sydney to Melbourne – more than 2,300 flights were cancelled in the first six months of 2023, with 380 in June alone.

“No doubt I’ll get another angry missive from the airlines, but it’d be good if a plane could take off on time, when scheduled. The one way I know that a plane will be on time in Australia is if I’m running late for it,” the Minister said.

“I was on a plane out of Melbourne two Sunday nights ago, and I know no one’s got sympathy for politicians, we were on the plane, it went out to the runway, then they said, sorry, plane’s not working properly. Back you go and come back tomorrow.


“It reminded me of backpacking in China in the 1990s. Maybe plane’s coming. Maybe it doesn’t. Good luck.”

Minister Shorten’s interview came not long after official BITRE data for June 2023 showed that across participating airlines (Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Rex Airlines, Skytrans, Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines), just 70.3 per cent of flights departed on time and 69.0 per cent arrived on time, with 3.6 per cent cancelled entirely.

While this was an improvement year-on-year over June 2022, which saw only 63.0 per cent on-time arrivals and 61.9 per cent on-time departures, as well as a 5.8 per cent cancellation rate, it is still worse than the long-term average of 81.4 per cent on-time arrivals, 82.5 per cent on-time departures, and 2.1 per cent cancellations.

Qantas was the top-performing airline when including its subsidiary QantasLink, despite its planes taking off on time just 71 per cent of the time, down from 75 per cent in May and 77 per cent in April.

“The performance was below Qantas’ own target of above 80 per cent, chiefly due to bad weather at major airports on 19 out of 30 days,” said the Flying Kangaroo in a statement.

“AirServices Australia staffing shortages also had a significant impact on on-time performance in June.

“Despite this, more than 94 per cent of Qantas and QantasLink flights in June took off within an hour of their scheduled departure time.

“Qantas and QantasLink also cancelled fewer flights in June with 3.7 per cent cancelled compared to its major competitor’s 4.2 per cent.”

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